(October 4, 2013) Richard Nearing wasn’t about to let the arthritis affecting his knee inhibit his active lifestyle. The 69-year-old McLean resident enjoys riding horses, hunting, fishing and ballroom dancing. So last fall, when the constant pain in his left knee threatened to slow him down, Nearing sought a solution that would get him back out in nature — and on the dance floor — with the shortest possible recovery time.
When Nearing met with Kevin Fricka, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, he was excited to learn that only the inside part of his knee would need repair, allowing him to quickly resume his normal activities.
“Mr. Nearing is very active and he had isolated arthritis in one portion of the knee, which limited his activity, so this made him a very good candidate for partial knee replacement,” says Dr. Fricka, who performed Nearing’s surgery. “It replicates a more normal-feeling knee than a total knee replacement because we leave all the ligaments in the knee intact and we only remove the arthritic bone and cartilage.”
Partial knee replacement offers an option for patients who have arthritis on only one side of their knee. During the procedure, the damaged bone and cartilage are removed through a small incision and then replaced with a metaland-plastic implant. The patient is able to go home the same day as surgery.
“Partial knee replacements have been around a long time, and they’ve regained favor in the last 10 years as people look to be more and more active with their knees even though they have arthritis,” says Dr. Fricka.
Within just four weeks after surgery, patients can resume low-impact activities such as walking, biking, swimming, lifting weights, hiking, golfing and gardening. Some people even pursue high-impact activities such as softball and tennis when they are fully recovered.
As for Nearing, he was back on his feet at home the day of surgery, and the next day he was walking with less pain. “In my opinion, Dr. Fricka and his team did a splendid job,” he says. “Now I’m back to riding horses and I can walk three or four miles up and down hills no problem. Plus, I can walk on uneven ground and on slippery rocks in a river. Truly I consider it miraculous.”
Innovative Solution for Knee Arthritis
If you have arthritis pain in part of your knee that cannot be controlled by medication, you may be a candidate for partial knee surgery, also known as unicompartmental arthroplasty. The knee is divided into three compartments: inside (medial), outside (lateral) and front (patellofemoral). During unicompartmental arthroplasty, the surgeon removes the damaged bone and cartilage from one compartment of the knee, then caps the ends of the bones with metal and plastic components.
The procedure can be done in an hour to an hour and a half. Patients can begin putting weight on the knee immediately after surgery and go home the same day, avoiding a stay in the hospital. Physical therapy is recommended soon after surgery to build strength and regain range of motion.
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