Vietnam medical advance: TB patient walks again with artificial knee

By Minh Nga   April 13, 2021 | 05:55 am PT
Vietnamese doctors have successfully applied one of the latest medical advances to replace a disease-destroyed knee with an artificial one.

In the first ever operation of its kind done in the country, a tuberculosis (TB) patient was given a new lease of life that allows her to walk again.

The feat was performed by doctors at the National Lung Hospital in Hanoi on a 59-year-old woman.

A Health Ministry report said the woman, a resident of the northern province of Hung Yen, had her condition misdiagnosed as rheumatism for 17 years. She had been treated all these years for the symptoms of that condition.

Last year, her condition worsened and she suffered severe pain in her left knee. But she did not get it checked until the knee swelled up and she was unable to walk.

For around six months since the condition started, she did not have any health check until the knee became swelled up and she could not walk.

In January, she went to Hanoi's Bach Mai Hospital, from where she was transferred to the National Lung Hospital.

A knee effusion test confirmed that she has been infected with the TB bacteria. The computer tomography results showed that the entire knee joint had been destroyed. She was hospitalized and doctors removed all the puss from the infected knee. She was discharged after being administered chemotherapy.

In March, after a follow-up examination revealed that all the abscesses were gone; and doctors decided to replace the knee joint with an artificial one so that she could walk again.

An X-ray of the artificial knee joint that replaces the one infected with TB, March 2021. Photo by National Lung Hospital

An X-ray of the artificial knee joint that replaces the one infected with TB, March 2021. Photo by National Lung Hospital

The artificial knee is made of metal and plastic.The metal parts of the implant are made of titanium or cobalt-chromium based alloys and the plastic parts are made of ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene.

The operation lasted more than two hours. Two days later, the woman was able to contract and extend the knee joint normally, something she had not done for a long time.

More than one week after the operation, she was able to take the first steps independently, not having to rely on any tool or support from another person.

She is currently able to move normally.

Nguyen Khac Trang, head of the Division of General Surgery at the National Lung Hospital, said replacing a sick knee joint with an artificial one was one of the most advanced techniques in the medical field and the recent operation was the first successful attempt ever in Vietnam.

He said the operation opens new doors for patients with tuberculosis-affected joints as also the spinal cord.

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