Minimally invasive knee procedure gives patients a leg up on recovery

Millions of Americans are living with painful knees, and with the baby boomers aging, that number is growing.

For many that means surgery and a lot of rehab, but what if we told you there is a minimally invasive knee replacement surgery that will give you a "leg up" on a much faster recovery?

Alan Pisarski, 53, got an epidural before having minimally invasive knee replacement surgery at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

"I've had severe knee pain for approximately ten years and it's actually come down to quality of life,” said Pisarski.

His leg has become deformed from degenerative arthritis.

Always in pain, this Chesterton man heard about Dr. Jeff Vergler's procedure and decided to have his surgery at. St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

Pisarski's anesthesiologist checked on his during the procedure. Since he had an epidural, like what pregnant women can get, he will not go under general anesthetic.

Pisarski kissed his wife goodbye before getting wheeled down the hall for surgery he hopes will have him back on his feet later that day.

Dr. Yergler wasted no time starting the procedure.

“This is the incision and you need to have an incision that's big enough to get the parts in and what we do is we usually expose the muscle here so that we know we're not cutting into the muscle or tendon,” explained Dr. Yergler.

And it's that fact that will get Pisarski back on his feet in hours and out of the hospital the next day.

The first order of business was to get the bad parts out with some sawing, and trimming the knee cap to get ready for the tibial implant.

“So when you're doing the procedure you are not dislocating the knee or the knee cap and you didn't cut into the muscle or thigh at all and that's really what speeds the recovery,” said Dr. Yergler

Dr. Yergler removed the end of Pisarski's femur.

“The next cut is probably the most important cut in the procedure and what this does is get rid of the bowl-legged deformity,” said Dr. Yergler

In what seemed like record time, Dr. Yergler put a block in to check the leg's alignment, taking just a few centimeters off the bone.

“There's a misconception that when you do a knee replacement you take the whole knee out. What a knee replacement really does is take the end of the bone off with the bad cartilage and caps the pieces with metal parts,” said Dr. Yergler.

With the damaged pieces of Pisarski's knee removed, it was time for the trial implant and to see how it would perform.

Pisarski’s knee goes all the way straight now; before he had about a ten degree flextion, which meant he couldn't straighten his knee all the way.

With the decision made on implant sizes, the staff prepared Pisarski's new implants, which would be anchored by cement.

Dr. Yergler does about 15 of these minimally invasive knee implants a week.

In less than an hour's time Dr. Yergler puts the finishing touches on the kneecap. A plastic button that goes on the kneecap is cemented as well.

Less than an hour since he left his family, Dr. Yergler is stitching Pisarski up, pleased with the ease of the surgery.

Pisarski was up and playing golf in two weeks. Perhaps more impressive than golf in two weeks, with no muscle or tendons cut, we found him less than three hours after surgery having his first physical therapy.

He spent one night in the hospital, but after that he’ll be working on getting a leg up on all the things he's missed doing over the last ten years.

Pisarski will need to do therapy for about three weeks, but can get back to work as soon as feels able.

Dr. Yergler says he had a construction worker who went back to work three days after surgery.

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