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When it was my turn to walk through the screening booth at airport security on a recent trip south, I took a deep breath.

“This should be interesting,” I said loud enough for the security officer on the other side to hear me.

Sure enough, when I walked past the metal detector it set off a familiar beeping sound.

The security guard approached me: “Knee replacement?” she asked. “Yes, knee replacement,” I laughed. “Get many?” She nodded. “More every year. It’s unreal.”

As long as airport screening involves walking through metal detectors, I will be setting off alarms for the rest of my travelling days. It’s a small price to pay for now having a knee that will allow me to ascend France’s Mont Saint-Michel with nary a grimace.

I’ve arrived at that stage in life when things like knee replacements seem to be a topic of daily conversation. There are few people in my demographic (late 60s) who don’t know someone who’s had their knee done, or had one done themselves. If you happen to be considering such a procedure, I’m here to assure you: it’s worth it.

I had a total right knee replacement done last October. It had bothered me, off and on, for years. But early last year it had really begun to impact my quality of life. Walking a golf course, my favourite pastime, became impossible. An MRI showed what I instinctively knew: the cartilage was all but gone. The official term is osteoarthritis – also known as “aging jock” disease.

There were 117,078 hip and knee replacements performed in Canada in 2021-22, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Of those, 58,433 were knees, the rest hips. The most common age for knee replacements was between 65 and 74.

Knee replacement surgery has come a long way. The most common form of the operation involves replacing the knee joint with a prosthesis made up of metal and plastic, attached to the bone with surgical cement. My procedure, performed by Dr. Bassam Masri in Vancouver, was a little different. My prosthesis, comprised mainly of titanium, was made using 3-D printing technology. In theory, this allows the new knee to be nearly identical to the one it’s replacing. The prosthesis is attached to the bone with a porous material and the bone then grows to attach to it. No cement needed.

This form of the procedure reportedly gives patients a longer lifespan with their new knee, in most cases far beyond the 20 years or so that has become standard.

My procedure took less than an hour. Dr. Masri does up to nine operations in a day – twice a week. His team has performed 3,500 knee replacements using 3-D technology and has had only two failures.

When you talk about knee replacements with anyone, all they seem to want to know is how the recovery went. You do hear some gruesome stories of people being in intolerable pain for days. Thankfully, that was not my experience. I needed no heavy-duty painkillers or narcotics. Ice machines that pump cold water into a corrugated wrap that goes around the affected knee are essential. It helps both bring down the swelling and offer pain relief. They are a gift from the gods.

The most crucial element to a good recovery, however, is exercise. Physio is really not optional. I can attest that it’s not much fun. You’d almost prefer to do anything else. However, if your goal is to get back to full mobility, committing yourself to a healthy, months-long physio regime is essential.

There are no guarantees with knee replacements. Things can go wrong. Infections can occur and sometimes necessitate a whole new operation. Occasionally the prosthesis is rejected by the body. Instability in the joint area and loosening of the prosthesis are other reasons these operations can fail. But it’s rare.

I was walking without any aids after a week, doing strolls up and down my street after 14 days. I was able to hit golf balls after a month. I was playing after three months, walking the course pain-free and hitting the golf ball as terribly as ever. It turns out a new knee won’t improve your game.

There are some things I’m still getting used to. I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that there is a foreign object where my old knee used to be. My replacement often makes an odd, disquieting crackling sound when I get up. It will buckle on me occasionally.

Still, I wouldn’t change a thing about my new knee. If it sets off the odd alarm, so be it.

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