Patient Doug Eneberg broke his right leg and injured the knee in a car accident in 1970. He recovered from his injuries, but his right knee was always prone to fatigue and pain, which caused him to limp. Forty years after the accident, his knee was bothering him every day, severely limiting his activities.
"I’m pretty active for my age. The pain was becoming a big deterrent to activity," he said. "Staying mobile is the key to health for older adults. At minimum, I wanted to be able to go for a walk with my wife. If I'm turning her down all the time because my knee’s hurting, then that’s hurting my quality of life."
Doug decided that since Northwest Hospital had treated him successfully after the car accident four decades ago, he would return to the hospital to find out if a knee replacement was right for him.
"I talked to Dr. Navin Fernando and he took some x-rays of my knee. He told me that the cartilage in my knee was nearly gone. That’s why it was hurting so much. So I decided to go for it and get a knee replacement."
"People hear the words 'knee replacement' and may imagine that the surgeon cuts off the knee above and below the joint, and replaces the entire joint with metal," said Navin Fernando M.D., F.R.C.S.C., of the UW Medicine Hip & Knee Center at Northwest Hospital, which specializes in the evaluation, management and surgical treatment of hip and knee conditions. "Actually, knee replacement is better described as a joint or cartilage replacement. When someone has arthritis in their knee, their cartilage erodes and no longer functions normally. The goal of knee replacement is to remove the damaged cartilage and replace it with thin metal caps on the end of the femur and tibia bone. Smooth plastic bearings are positioned between the pieces of metal, which allow the knee to move normally. The patient's bones, ligaments and muscles are largely preserved, rather than replaced. It's essentially still the same knee they’ve always had, but with a replacement of the cartilage."
Doug had knee replacement surgery in the spring of 2014.
"After the surgery, I went through the recovery process," he said. "A physical therapist came to my house at first, then I went to the Northwest Hospital physical therapy unit. My therapist challenged me to push through the pain, which I did. I also did all the work I could when she wasn't there. The thing is, I hadn't just been fighting this knee pain for a few years, I'd been fighting it for 40 years. I didn't have full range of motion before the surgery, so there was a lot of retraining I had to do."
"I always tell my patients that physical therapy is key to a successful recovery. The first three months after surgery are critical. Patients must be engaged in their own recovery and therapy to have the best possible outcome," said Dr. Fernando.
Today, Doug feels like he has a whole new knee.
"I can almost do everything I want to now. I work a lot on my house. I'm down on my knees, working in the garden or painting trim. Before, I paid dearly if I tried to do things like climb a ladder to paint my house or clean out my gutters. Now, it doesn’t hurt. I can go on walks with my wife again," he said.
For more information about the UW Medicine Hip & Knee Center at Northwest Hospital, call 206.520.5000 or visit http://nwhospital.org/hip-knee.