Healthcare Transparency – Flip the Switch in the Healthcare Store

Healthcare Transparency Store
image from Kai Hendry

What if shopping for healthcare was like shopping in a grocery store. Would healthcare transparency exist in the aisles? Recent improvements to the healthcare system have made transparency better. But shopping for healthcare can still be a lot like shopping for groceries in the dark.

Baking a Cake

Imagine this. You decide you want to bake a perfect cake for your daughter’s high school graduation. In order to complete this task, you consult an expert chef; Rachel Ray perhaps. Based on her suggestions, you decide on the exact ingredients and specific processes needed to bake the perfect cake. When you go to the grocery store to buy the ingredients, the lights are off and you are left to shop in the dark! After many struggles, you finally head home with the necessary ingredients. Plus some unnecessary ingredients because, well, you were shopping in the dark. All things considered, you baked the perfect cake and everyone at the graduation party loved it!

One week later, you receive a bill from the grocery store with unexpectedly varying costs for the ingredients you purchased. For example, a dozen eggs cost $3; pretty normal. But you were also charged $50 for one pound of flour. Ridiculous! You would have NEVER paid that much for flour if the lights were on! In addition, the grocery store 10 miles away had flour for $20 per pound, and if you would’ve known, you probably would’ve bought flour at that store instead. Luckily, you have a supplemental payment plan to help you pay for part of the bill. Nonetheless, you could’ve saved some money if the lights were just turned on!

At this point, you can probably see where I’m going with this, but I’ll continue anyway. Substitute a doctor for the expert chef (Dr. Oz perhaps), medications and treatments for the ingredients and baking process, a hospital for the grocery store, and the outcome of your medical treatment (hopefully positive) for the perfect cake. Similar to the grocery store in the dark, hospitals have the ability to set prices however they see fit. Even if it leads to significant markups. Also, many hospitals in different markets across the U.S. have the ability to set a wide variety of prices for the same treatments. For example, according to a study reported by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the average episode for a total knee or hip replacement cost $60,000 in New York City, but only $16,000 in Montgomery, Alabama.

If the grocery store analogy doesn’t work for you, here’s the current healthcare system summed up in 140 characters or less.

Flip the Switch for Healthcare Transparency

Flipping the switch and turning on the lights in the healthcare store will contribute to the evolution of the healthcare system in the United States. The healthcare consumer experience can be vastly improved with healthcare transparency. Specifically for joint replacements, you can shop for replacement products, choose a surgeon, and pick a hospital based on estimated costs. Shopping for a knee implant can even be like shopping for golf clubs! With the movement towards healthcare transparency, never hesitate to ask your provider for estimated costs regarding your medications and treatments.

If you’re in the market for a knee or hip replacement, download this FREE PRICE REPORT that covers average charges for nearly 800 hospitals in the United States!

Always consult a doctor when considering medical treatment to discuss diagnosis, treatment, and cost information.

Shopping for Healthcare

We are in the season of shopping. Whether you already have your holiday shopping completed, or you usually wait until the last minute, we should all be proactive when shopping for healthcare. A recent trend has been developing over the last few years about shopping for healthcare in the U.S. Maybe you have noticed the same trend or maybe you haven’t; either way, shopping for healthcare will better equip you to take control of your health. Here, we will investigate the problem, explore a solution, and even discuss how shopping for golf clubs could prove to be a similar experience as shopping for healthcare.

The Problem with Healthcare in the U.S.

The current problem with healthcare is the correlation between cost and quality, or lack thereof. This study, published in 2013 by the American College of Physicians, concluded, “the association between healthcare cost and quality is inconsistent and most studies found the association between cost and quality is small to moderate.” Or take this 2014 study, published by the American Medical Association, which states, “one reason why spending is not highly correlated with quality is that the price of the same service varies.” The study goes on to explain, “Medicare pays physicians and hospitals using prices that are adjusted based on a variety of factors, but little based on quality” and that “variation in prices paid by private insurers is due to bargains struck with doctors, rather than quality of care.” Lastly, consider this 2016 investigation by Amino, who used doctor experience as a measure of quality. Amino was “surprised to find no correlation between cost and experience for doctors who perform ACL surgery.” As in other industries, you would think that a higher price means higher quality, but that is not the case in healthcare. The lack of correlation between cost and quality calls for consumers to take an active role in shopping for healthcare by evaluating quality, price, and treatment options.

Shopping for Healthcare – Fixing the Problem

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The most obvious trend regarding healthcare shopping is a push for transparency. Not only price transparency, but quality as well. This is important because the healthcare industry operates differently from other industries when it comes to consumerism. Shopping for healthcare will allow consumers to find the highest quality for the most reasonable cost. Transparency has been a non-issue in the past for healthcare consumers because they weren’t usually paying the bill at the point of service. This is not the case anymore as the role of the healthcare consumer is changing. Rising deductibles are a major contributing factor to this changing role. A high deductible health insurance plan usually means lower monthly premiums. This also means the beneficiary will pay more out of pocket costs at the time of service before realizing their full insurance coverage for the calendar year. In addition to a high deductible health plan, the extended use of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), as future President Trump has proposed, will put more responsibility on healthcare consumers to take control of their health. Price transparency is critically important as consumers take on more costs at the point of service.

There has also been a push for quality transparency. But what differentiates a high-quality healthcare experience from a low-quality experience? Some quality factors to consider when you’re shopping for healthcare are:

  • The surgeon
  • The quality of medical equipment and technology at the facility
  • Medical facility ratings such as Medicare Hospital Compare
  • The opinions of your friends and family about their healthcare experiences

By pushing for transparency and utilizing tools making price and quality information available, healthcare consumers can take control of their health.

How Transparency Affects Orthopedics

Another quality factor to consider when you’re shopping for a knee or hip replacement is the actual implant product that will be placed in your joint during surgery. Although your surgeon is the most important factor for your surgery, you are the one that must live with the implant. You may never see the product you’re buying, but you must live with it every day of your life. Many companies design and manufacture knee and hip implants, each with distinct functions and characteristics that may better serve different people. Here you can learn more about 7 Characteristics of Knee Replacement Products. When shopping for a knee or hip replacement, consider these key decision factors:

  • Surgeon
  • Facility
  • Implant
  • Cost

Shopping for Golf Clubs and Shopping for Healthcare

(image from

How could shopping for healthcare be anything like shopping for golf clubs? Let’s say you’ve been golfing for many years but recently you’ve run into a bit of trouble as you can’t cure a nasty slice that has taken over your game. After trying to work through it yourself, you decide it’s time to look for a change. You seek out the advice of an expert golf pro during a handful of lessons. The expert tips help for the short term but after a year, you’re back where you started with the slice; and this time, you decide your game needs a drastic overhaul.

You begin shopping by testing different clubs from a variety of manufacturers, each with different characteristics. Forged metal or cast metal, strong loft or traditional loft, steel shaft or graphite shaft, regular flex or stiff flex. Each new set you test comes with expert feedback from a golf pro you trust. While continuously testing golf clubs, you are also exploring prices for all options available to you. After educating yourself and testing many sets of golf clubs, in conjunction with the expert golf pro, you decide on the set that’s right for you. You then work with the golf pro for many months to change your swing with the goal of accommodating your new style of play. This leads to renewed faith in your game and many years of great golf.

Now let’s write the story for your knee replacement shopping experience. Let’s say you’ve been an active person all your life but you’ve recently run into a bit of trouble as you have been experiencing knee pain. After trying to work through the pain with rest and ice, you decide it’s time to look for a change. You seek out the advice of an orthopedic physician and you are prescribed non-surgical treatments. Your pain is mildly relieved for about a year but your knee pain is generally getting worse and you decide it’s time to shop for a permanent solution.

You begin shopping for your knee replacement by researching many different products from a variety of manufacturers, each with different characteristics. Fixed bearing or mobile bearing, cruciate sacrificing or cruciate retaining, cement or cementless fixation, unicompartmental, bicompartmental, or total replacement. Although you won’t be able to “test” the products, each product you learn about will be open to expert feedback from an orthopedic physician you trust. While learning about all available options, you are also exploring prices for costs you may incur during your surgical experience. After educating yourself about the many options available to you, in conjunction with your orthopedic physician, you decide on the knee replacement that’s right for you. You then attend physical therapist for a few months with the goal of accommodating your lifestyle to your new joint. This leads to renewed dependence on your knee and many years of pain free living.


The lack of correlation between cost and quality leads to the importance of shopping for healthcare. We saw what the future may look like with consumers shopping for healthcare and even took a practical approach through the comparison between knee replacement and golf. 360 Orthopaedics will continue to provide quality information about diagnosis, treatment, and healthcare costs. As you continue your holiday shopping, consider a bright future of healthcare shopping leading to high quality at reasonable prices.

Happy holidays to all!

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Always consult a doctor when considering medical treatment to discuss diagnosis, treatment, and cost information.

Knee Pain – 4 Non-Surgical Treatments

You may find yourself with knee pain while engaging in activities like walking, running, kneeling, and sports activities such as basketball or golf. If you are struggling to complete these activities without knee pain, a visit to an orthopedic doctor may be beneficial. Doctors don’t always have an immediate fix, and the problem may need to be resolved over a period of time. Nonetheless, the doctor you visit will work with you to manage your pain and fix the problem to make sure you get back to doing the things you love like running, sports, or even keeping up with kids and grandkids.

In orthopedics, there are common standards of treatment for knee pain to help patients live pain free. Non-surgical treatments may be used to manage the pain, but these treatments may not be a long-term solution. However, the following four non-surgical treatment options are commonly suggested by orthopedic doctors to help control and manage knee pain.

  1. Treatments begin with rest, ice, heat, and pain relievers like ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Although this seems simple, sometimes just taking time off can help people manage knee pain.

If the simple fix doesn’t help manage pain, the doctor may suggest an injection of medication into the knee joint.

  1. One type of injection is a corticosteroid or cortisone shot, which is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Corticosteroid injection may or may not be effective and according to Dr. Jonathan Samuels, assistant professor of rheumatology at New York University, “the injections help some patients significantly but others do not get much relief at all.” Dr. Samuels also says, “a patient shouldn’t have corticosteroid injections more than once every three to four months.” In addition to Dr. Samuels’ thoughts, guidelines by American Family Physician estimate the duration of pain relief at no more than two months. Corticosteroid injections may provide short term relief but may not be a long term solution.
  1. Another type of injection is hyaluronic acid, which is a natural substance in the knee joint that breaks down in people with osteoarthritis. Hyaluronic acid injection acts as a supplemental lubricant and shock absorber for the joint. The Arthritis Foundation says patients can expect to receive the injections once per week for three to five weeks. According to a study by Dr. Nicholas Bellamy of the University of Queensland in Australia, it takes about five weeks before a patient experiences the full benefits of a hyaluronic acid injection. Although your doctor may recommend this treatment, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “the most recent research has not found hyaluronic acid injection to be effective at significantly reducing pain or improving function” while also pointing out that “although some patients report pain relief, some people are not helped.” Like the corticosteroid injection, hyaluronic acid may or may not be effective and also may not be a long-term solution.
  1. Another remedy for knee pain is physical therapy, which may be coupled with an injection. If you decide on the injection, your doctor may also suggest continuing treatment with physical therapy for the next several weeks. Ask your doctor if they recommend undergoing therapy at the hospital or an independent location and be sure to check which therapists are covered under your health insurance. Physical therapy for knee pain typically consists of muscle strengthening and range of motion exercises. Specifically, muscles that are strengthened for better knee stability include the thigh and hamstring muscles on the upper part of the leg. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, muscle strengthening will reduce stress on the knee joint while stretching exercises will help restore range of motion.

If you suffer from knee pain, a visit to an orthopaedic doctor may be beneficial for more information. This list is not exhaustive of all treatment options available for knee pain but only represents common treatments that may be suggested by an orthopedic doctor. Always consult a doctor when considering medical treatment, such as non-surgical remedies for knee pain like injections and therapy.

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Could Your Knee Replacement Fail?

Failure is a strong word, especially when it comes to your health. However, a total knee replacement (TKR), just like a healthy knee joint, can “fail” over time. It is important to know about primary and revision total knee replacement as well as reasons why your implant could fail and the possibility of a revision surgery in the future.

Primary: A TKR surgery for the first time on your knee joint.

Revision: A TKR surgery after a primary TKR has already been performed on the same knee joint.

Knowing the difference between a primary and revision TKR is important for patients to know. A healthy lifestyle will help patients avoid revision surgery and the consequences that may arise if revision is needed. Primary surgery is more straightforward and you can learn additional information about primary total knee replacement. Complications may lead to serious questions if revision TKR is needed to correct the primary surgery. Following are two reasons a revision TKR may be needed.

  1. Implant wear is a normal process that can gradually take place over many years after a primary TKR is performed. Just like in a healthy knee joint, knee implants are liable to normal wear, which may require a revision TKR. This wear and tear may include the implant loosening away from the bone. The cause of loosening is not always clear, but high-impact activities, excessive body weight, and wear of the plastic spacer between the two metal components of the implant are all factors that may contribute.
  2. Infection is a risk factor for both primary and revision TKR, although the risk of infection is slightly higher after a revision than after the primary surgery. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a revision TKR due to infection can be handled via different methods including:
  • Debridement: In some cases, the bacteria can be washed out, the plastic spacer can be exchanged, and the metal implants can be left in place.
  • Staged Surgery: In other cases, the implant must be completely removed to treat the infection. Your doctor will perform the revision in two separate surgeries. In the first surgery, the surgeon will remove the implant and place a temporary cement spacer in your knee for several weeks, which is treated with antibiotics to fight the infection. When the infection has been cleared, the surgeon will perform a second surgery to remove the cement spacer and insert a new implant. In general, removing the implant leads to a higher chance of curing the infection, but is associated with a longer recovery.
Before and after x-ray of a primary TKR (left) and revision TKR (right). Notice the revision components with longer stems. (image from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)
Before and after x-ray of a primary TKR (left) and revision TKR (right). Notice the revision components with longer stems. (image from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)

There are different types of revision surgery. In some cases, only one component of the implant must be revised. Other times, all three components—femoral, tibial, and patellar—need to be removed or replaced. When a primary implant is exchanged for a new implant during a revision TKR, there are differences in the implant shape, most notably the length of the stem on the metal components. The extra length of the stem provides increased stability for the patient after the revision TKR is performed.

According to a 2011 study titled “International survey of primary and revision total knee replacement” the average rate of combined primary and revision TKR surgery worldwide was 175 procedures/100,000 population while the average rate of revision TKR was 15 procedures/100,000 population.

Although it is unlikely to undergo a revision TKR, it is important to strive to live a healthy lifestyle every day, which will make preparing for either a primary or revision TKR much easier. Taking pride in a healthy lifestyle is especially important after you undergo a primary TKR in order to avoid a revision surgery as much as possible. Be sure to always consult a doctor when considering medical treatment, such as primary or revision total knee replacement, to discuss specific knee implants, treatment, and rehab.

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7 Characteristics of Knee Replacement Products

Note: This article contains many anatomical terms that were identified in a previous article, “What is Total Knee Replacement.”

Many orthopedic device manufacturing companies exist, and many of them design and produce unique total knee replacement (TKR) products. The unique characteristics of each implant set it apart from other models within the company and within the industry. This article will identify 7 characteristics of knee replacement products and define terminology to explain the different products.

Fixed Bearing and Mobile Bearing

1. The fixed bearing implant is a more traditional type of knee implant that is designed with less active patients in mind. This implant is termed “fixed bearing” because the plastic surface is “fixed” into the tibial component, only allowing for front-and-back knee movement, meaning the implant is not designed to allow for pivoting or twisting movement about the knee joint.

2. The mobile bearing implant is a more complex design that is made for more active patients. It is termed “mobile bearing” because the plastic surface is attached to the tibial component in a way that allows for pivoting and twisting of the knee joint, in addition to the standard front-and-back movement. This additional mobility results from the ability of the plastic to move on the tibial surface.


Perhaps the most important characteristic of a knee implant is how the metal components adhere to the bones for fixation. There have been many product recalls in the orthopedic device world regarding this issue. The metal components can be attached to the bones in one of two ways: with cement or without.

3. The most common method of attachment is to use bone cement as a glue to properly adhere the metal to the bone. If the cement does not adhere properly, the metal components may become loose, which could cause severe pain along with a dysfunctional knee.

4. Advancements in material properties have led to the development of a cementless system of fixation. The special material used on these implants is a type of porous metal. Porous metal has holes (pores) in it that allow the bone to grow into the metal for proper attachment. Again, if the bone does not properly grow into the metal component, it may become loose; leading to pain and dysfunction.

Fate of the Ligaments

Additional characteristics regard the outcome of the ligaments of the knee. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) are generally kept during the operation, so the discussion of whether to keep or remove the knee ligaments centers around the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL).

5. The traditional way of dealing with the ACL and PCL is to remove them, which would be called cruciate sacrificing. As discussed previously, the ligaments help to stabilize the knee joint, allowing for pivoting and twisting movements; once these ligaments are removed, pivoting and twisting becomes more difficult.

6. Through scientific advancements, a method for keeping the PCL has been developed in some models of knee implants; these models are called cruciate retaining.  In some knee implants, a method has been developed to keep both the ACL and PCL during the operation; this model implant is termed a bicruciate retaining model.

7. Lastly, another type of knee implant is called posterior stabilized. This implant procedure removes both the ACL and PCL, but the implant is designed to mimic the actions of the PCL, which will stabilize the movements that would normally be stabilized by the PCL.


In this article, the main characteristics of total knee replacement products were identified. This includes fixed bearing, mobile bearing, cemented, non-cemented, cruciate sacrificing, cruciate retaining, bicruciate retaining, and posterior stabilizing.

Without being informed and asking your orthopedic physician the right questions, you could end up with a fixed bearing, cemented knee implant and your ligaments (ACL and PCL) removed without even knowing. Not that this type of implant would be harmful to you, but when considering a TKR, you should be aware of the options available to you and which models would best suit your lifestyle. Read here about shopping for knee replacement.

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Always consult a doctor to discuss specific knee implants along with their characteristics and functionalities. The appropriate knee implant system for you should be chosen in accordance with your doctor.

3 Considerations when Preparing for Total Knee Replacement

Total knee replacement (TKR) is an orthopedic surgical operation that can enhance people who may suffer from knee pain. Read here for more information about the total knee replacement surgical operation. Although TKR helps thousands of people every year, candidates for TKR should be prepared for the surgery in order to improve outcomes.

Most TKR candidates suffer from knee pain and a decrease in the range of motion of their knee joint. If someone suffers from these obstacles, they may be interested in a TKR operation; but not all patients that are interested may be good candidates. Although an interested patient may face difficulties in everyday life, they must be as healthy as possible to undergo a TKR operation. There are a few health considerations an orthopedic surgeon will investigate to determine if a patient is a good candidate for a total knee replacement. These considerations are included in the current health of the patient as well as past medical experiences.

  1. A patient may be interested in surgery to increase the flexion of their knee joint.
    Degrees of knee flexion (image from Military Disability Made Easy)
    Degrees of knee flexion (image from Military Disability Made Easy)

    The standard normal flexion of a knee joint is 120 degrees, although many daily activities may require flexion beyond that. Surgeons may expect patients to flex their knee reasonably well pre-surgery (roughly 100-120 degrees). This will enhance the patient’s probability of achieving maximum flexion after the surgery.

  2. A key characteristic when considering a total knee replacement is the pre-surgery stability of the patient’s knee. This primarily concerns the health of the ligaments and cartilage in the patient’s knee joint. If the patient has previously torn a ligament or has undergone a ligament reconstruction surgery, it may inhibit the patient’s ability to recover as quickly as possible after the surgery, meaning post-surgery rehab may take longer.
  3. Another characteristic considered by orthopedic surgeons is the overall health of the patient. The Body Mass Index (BMI) of the patient is an important consideration for the surgeon. An orthopedic surgeon may consider overall health factors such as diabetes, obesity, and any previous illness or disease of the patient. These are important considerations because if the patient is obese or has an illness, complications such as infection may arise after the surgery. If a patient is faced with a complication after surgery, they may have to undergo a revision surgery to correct the knee replacement. Completing a revision surgery is not an easy task for the healthcare team or the patient, so an effort must be made to avoid a revision. With today’s technology and medical practices, infections are not likely during a TKR, but all precautions must be taken seriously.

These are some general considerations of orthopedic surgeons when considering candidates for total knee replacement. If you feel you do not meet some of the considerations, do not consider yourself a “bad candidate.” If you are as healthy as possible before your total knee replacement surgery, your life should be much easier as you rehab after the surgery. Be sure to always consult a doctor when considering medical treatment, such as total knee replacement, to discuss specific knee implants, treatment, and rehab.

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What is Total Knee Replacement?

Total knee replacement (TKR), also known as total knee arthroplasty (TKA), is an orthopedic surgical operation in which artificial implants are placed in a patient’s dysfunctional knee. The artificial parts in this type of joint reconstruction include metal and plastic that are meant to mimic the function of a healthy knee joint.

Knee Anatomy

A healthy knee joint is comprised of bones, cartilage, and ligaments. The bones of the knee joint include the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). The ends of these two bones meet in the knee joint. The end of the tibia (shin) is flat and the end of the femur (thigh) is round. A cartilage structure, called the meniscus, sits on tibia to provide a cushion between the bones. Likewise, a cartilage structure, called articular cartilage, can be seen on the end of the femur, also providing a cushion between the bones.

Front view of a healthy knee joint (image from American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)
Front view of a healthy knee joint (image from American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)

The four ligaments in a healthy knee joint include the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). The LCL is on the outer side of the knee and the MCL is on the opposite side. The ACL and PCL are in the middle, between the tibia and femur. These ligaments provide stability so the knee can function properly while a person does things like walk, run, squat, and pivot. Without ligaments, the round femur sits on top of the flat tibia, which, as you can imagine, would be unstable.

What’s in a Total Knee Replacement

A total knee replacement procedure typically takes place when someone experiences chronic knee pain. Knee pain can arise after many years of active living, causing the cartilage in the knee to wear down. Damaged cartilage leads to no cushioning, which causes bone-on-bone interaction in the joint. Bone-on-bone interaction causes severe pain in the knee, especially when trying to participate in activities; even activities as simple as walking.

Front view and side view of a total knee replacement (image from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)
Front view and side view of a total knee replacement (image from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

The important thing to remember about the components of a healthy knee (bones, cartilage, and ligaments) is that they provide structure and stability in order for a person to live a pain-free lifestyle. Any damage or hindrance to any of these knee structures can prevent a person from the life they want.

As mentioned previously, a reconstructed knee joint includes artificial parts made of metal and plastic. The artificial tibial (shin bone) component is a metal tray that sits on the end of the tibia. The artificial femoral (thigh bone) component is a metal “cap” that is placed on the end of the femur. The ends of the bones will be cut specifically so the metal parts can properly fit in place. The cartilage components of the knee will be replaced with a plastic piece between the two metal components. The new plastic piece will provide a cushioning. The ligaments of the knee joint may be removed, depending on the type of implant the patient receives. For more information about special characteristics of total knee replacement, read 7 Characteristics of Knee Replacement Products.

Someone may be a candidate for TKR if they struggle to live pain-free because of a dysfunctional knee. The candidate may find that pain is an obstacle when trying to complete activities such as walking, squatting, kneeling, and pivoting. If someone is hindered by their current knee function, they may be able to improve their quality of life after total knee replacement. Be sure to always consult a doctor when considering medical treatment, such as total knee replacement, to discuss specific knee implants, treatment, and rehab.

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