Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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NEW ORLEANS -- Knee replacements are expected to skyrocket from $500,000 a year now, to $3.5 million by 2030.

The reason? The high rate of diabetes, obesity and aging baby boomers.

But some patients don't have success because the new joint doesn't fit right. But now doctors are saying that's a thing of the past.

Whether it's from an injury in your youth playing sports or wear and tear from life's ups and downs on the scale, knee replacements are rising with the age of baby boomers.

'Increasingly the baby boomer generation has sort of tact which is, 'I should be able to continue to play sports until I'm 90,'' said Dr. Aaron Rosenberg, a professor of surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is also the director of adult reconstruction in the section of orthopedics.

Dr. Rosenberg said advances in knee implant technology will give future patients a leg up on those of the past. Just as we don't look the same on the outside, nor do we on the inside.

Gone are the days where surgeons had just a handful of off-the-shelf implant shapes and sizes. Now the Zimmer Persona offers 42 choices.

'Women and men skeletally are differently shaped and the United States nowadays you encounter multiple ethnicities. And it turns out there are real differences in the shapes and configurations of the boney parts,' Dr. Rosenberg said.

He said a better fit can mean less pain and a better outcome.

There's also another company that also has new knee implant technology.

'In the NFL, one of the situations that we're faced with right now, is we see a lot of penalties, a lot of flags coming out because guys get hit in the head. Well there's only one other place that defensive backs are going to go and that's to the knee,' said Joe Theismann, a former quarterback and now an entrepreneur.

World champion quarterback Joe Theismann's 1985 leg injury was called the NFL's most shocking moment in history. He's a company spokesman and says another type of implant, ConforMIS knees, which are personally made to fit only you, will change the lives of retired players and everyday people alike.

'So many of my teammates and friends that I know have been exposed to orthopedic surgeons and really have been able to put their lives back together and create a quality of life, and that's really what customized knee implants are all about,' Theismann added.

Florida orthopedic surgeon Dr. Gregory Martin said fear of post-operative pain and long recoveries can keep people from getting knee replacements.

But with this custom implant, he sees people getting back to normal in half of the time, just six weeks.

'If the implant's a little bit too big, it can rub against tendons or muscles and it can really be painful. But just three millimeters of being too big have been shown in studies to increase the risk of post-operative pain,' said Dr. Gregory Martin, the medical director of the Orthopedic Institute at JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, Florida.

And if tension on the ligaments is not right, that can cause pain too.

'With our system, there's very little ligament balancing required because simply we're putting the anatomy back into a patient that existed before. So in many ways it is a simpler procedure,' said Adam Hayden, the Vice President of Marketing at ConforMIS in Bedford, Massachusetts. 'We've reached an age of specialization, and I think to ignore it would be foolish,' Theismann said.

Insurance does pay for these new better-fitting knees.

Click here for more information on Zimmer and here for more information on ConforMIS

Here are the names of local area knee surgeons who use the Zimmer knee implants that Dr. Rosenberg was speaking to:

  • Dr. Chad Millet at Southern Orthopedics in New Orleans, LA
  • Dr. Wesley Clark at Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic in Marrero and New Orleans, LA
  • Dr. Dan Gallagher at Bone & Joint Clinic in Gretna, LA
  • Dr. Scott Curry at North Oaks Orthopaedics in Hammond, LA
  • Dr. Jason Rolling at Covington Orthopaedics in Covington, LA

Here is a list of local doctors for conforMIS knee:

  • Ochsner Sports Medicine - Deryk Jones, MD (504) 736-4807
  • Crescent City Orthopedics - R. William Junius, III, MD (504) 309-6500
  • Orthopaedic Sports Specialists of Louisiana - Jason Higgins, MD Patrick Ellender, MD (985) 625-2200
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