Knee procedures not only for ‘boomers’ but younger people

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This week NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams underwent knee replacement surgery and he has lots of company. Knee procedures are gaining ground with younger and younger people.

A knee replacement is still major surgery and a long recovery.

Doctors hope by taking action early on for knee pain, they can avoid total knee replacement down the line.

Several years ago Ellyn Schill's knee started bothering her while out on a jog. It was sore at first and over a period of months, grew more painful.

Ellyn Schill says, "I noticed it getting worse and worse to the point where it started to bother me when I was just walking."

An MRI showed she'd torn her meniscus; the shock absorber of the knee.

Dr. Justin Saliman from Cedars-Sinai Orthopedic Center in Los Angeles says, "The meniscus is the gold. You got to keep your meniscus."

Dr. Justin Saliman is one of a growing number of orthopedic surgeons across the country opting to repair a torn meniscus when possible, rather than partially remove it; as was once the gold standard.

"When the meniscus gets torn, surrounding cartilage suffers, and if that meniscal tissue is sewn back together, the surrounding cartilage becomes maintained and the knee lasts potentially forever," Dr. Saliman says.

Doctors say it’s possible major knee replacement surgery could be avoided later in life when younger patients undergo preservation techniques like meniscus repair.

Dr. Michael Salata from UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland says, "Most of us are pretty aggressive in trying to repair that meniscus because it is so important to the function of the knee."

And young patients like Ellyn Schill can get their lives back on track.

"I wanted to get back to the things I love to do. I love hiking, I love being able to jog outside," Schill explains.

She did this without having to face a future of knee pain or future knee surgery.

Orthopedic surgeons also point out that the best things you can do to prevent future knee problems is to stay physically active and maintain a healthy weight.

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