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Partial knee replacement surgery provides a new lease on life

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Orthopedic Seminar: Minimally Invasive Options for Knee and Hip Pain

Drs. Lauren Hansen and Paul Sasaura

6-8:15 p.m., Tuesday, September 13

Alta Sierra Country Club 11897 Tammy Way, Grass Valley. To RSVP call 530-274-6607 or visit dignityhealth.org/sierranevadaortho

80-year-old Eino Makinen knew he needed to do something about the pain in his left knee, but he was willing to wait for as long as possible.

He had his right knee replaced three years prior at a hospital outside our community, and the experience left him hesitant to deal with the aftermath of a second surgery.

“I put this surgery off for as long as I could,” Makinen said. “I didn’t want to have the same experience that I had with the right knee; I had a lot of complications and a long recovery, and I had to return to the hospital. Once bitten twice shy, so they say.”

Then, one day a friend brought him an article that she had read in the Healthy Tuesday section of The Union about Minimally Invasive Surgical Options for Hips and Knees.

The article included details about a new, less invasive procedure called partial knee resurfacing offered at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

Makinen thought it sounded interesting. He visited his doctor to find out if the treatment would be an option for him.

At the appointment, the doctor took x-rays and told Makinen that he was, in fact, a perfect candidate for this type of surgery. Makinen was referred to Dr. Lauren Hansen of Summit Orthopedic Specialists in Grass Valley.

Hansen explained to Makinen that minimally invasive surgery is a comprehensive approach to surgery that would treat his knee pain with less injury to the surrounding soft tissue than a traditional total knee replacement.

“Partial knee replacement is one form of minimally invasive surgery,” explained Hansen. “If arthritis affects only one portion of the knee, then the procedure involves only that area rather than affecting the entire joint as is the case for total knee replacements.”

Minimally invasive procedures such as partial knee replacements have a faster, and typically easier, recovery than a traditional total knee replacement.

Like Makinen, many active people living with knee pain are finding that minimally invasive treatments offer an appealing alternative.

“In general, this is thought of as more relevant for younger patients. However, we consider the scope of the patient’s disease in combination with their activity level and expectations,” Hansen said. “We work together with the patient to determine what the best plan will be for that person.” 

Makinen had his surgery in February, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he only had to spend one night in the hospital. Within about a month, Makinen felt great and a month after that he began his daily walking routine again.

He started with two miles and slowly worked his way back to the 5-6 miles he walked before his knee pain began.

“I walk every morning; I’m almost addicted to it,” he said. “I love being able to keep up with my great-grandsons when I babysit them.”

Hansen encourages people living with knee pain not to wait until their quality of life is affected to seek help.

Persistent pain and stiffness and a pain that does not respond to rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication are all indications that the injury should be examined by a physician.

“Even before a patient would be considered a candidate for surgery, there are generally several other conservative treatment options available,” she said. “If a patient has persistent pain, they should come in to be evaluated.”

Makinen was as impressed by the personal attention to his recovery that he received after his surgery as much as the procedure itself. “I could not ask for any better service; I’m very satisfied. Everyone was so nice and helpful,” Makinen said. “I have been in many hospitals over the years, but I have never been treated so well. Dr. Hansen was great. And the surgery worked! I’m like a preacher now … I want to tell everyone about it.”

All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.