THE DRAWN STERILE DRAPES and gowned physicians and nurses gathered around a brightly lit table had all the makings of an operating room. But the pounding, drilling and sawing taking place on the carefully exposed knee, flexed upward in the center of the surgical area, was more reminiscent of a construction site.
Knee replacement surgery is, as they say, no picnic, and the operation one morning last summer at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center was one more example. It is the most frequent elective surgery in the country, according to the national Centers for Disease Control, with more than 700,000 procedures performed each year.
Knee replacement is popular because it is usually successful. It helps to relieve extreme pain and stiffness that result when the cartilage that cushions the bones of the knee softens and wears away, so that the bones rub against each other. The most common cause is osteoarthritis.