Just about every part of a filmed surgery is mind-boggling, when you stop to think. The star of the show, in this case, is the knee replacement — a full removal of the damaged patella, cartilage, and certain ligaments, and the introduction of a sleek metal joint for easy gliding. Then there’s the camera filming it all, a silent observer capturing one human tinkering with the livelihood of another. All told, the operation takes just under 15 minutes.
Knee replacements were first devised in 1954, by Surgeon-Lieutenant Commander Leslie Shiers. Sixty years later, the procedure remains mostly the same, if including several state-of-the-art upgrades. While this particular surgery involves full reconstruction, including medial, lateral, and patellofemoral attention, patients don’t always receive all three. Medical science is able to choose, for instance, which compartments would benefit the most from some new hardware and which just need a stronger support system.
Part of what makes the surgery so impressive is the mix of primitive tools and modern luxuries. At one turn, the surgeon is using a pair of sturdy calipers to measure the thickness of the patient’s patella. (“Big knee,” he remarks.) Just a few minutes later, he’s seen using a mallet to pound in part of the device. And let’s not forget about the thankless hero: anesthesia. Without it, an otherwise fascinating point-of-view surgery would quickly become a very different video.