Joint replacement surgery different but better 11 years later

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By Janet Robb

TELL CITY - Eleven years ago Gus Kuhner walked out of St. Mary's in Evansville with a new right hip.

The experience, he said, was scary because he didn't know what to expect but when he got his left hip replaced in July, everything from the physical therapy to pain management was different.

"This time was 500 percent better than last time," he said explaining his knowledge from his prior surgery and a pre-procedure class through St. Mary's Joint Replacement Solutions contributed to why he wasn't nervous.

Before there wasn't as many expectations for patients, said Chris Johnston, Joint Care Coordinator for Joint Replacement Solutions.

Joint-replacement patients now take a pre-operation class where all expectations are laid out for them, he said.

A team of doctors, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, social services, patient care technicians and others specializing in joint care go over everything from pre-procedure information to post-procedure exercises with patients, according to www.stmarys.org.

Even though doctors did tell patients what they should do, they didn't force them to do therapy if they were in pain, Johnston said.

"Therapy is much more intense than what it used to be," he said. "We encourage everyone to keep moving. We also make sure patients are comfortable enough to do what needs to be done."

When Kuhner had his first surgery, hospital stays were much longer for hip or knee replacements, Johnston said. Patients might have been in for a month or more.

Now, thanks to a better physical-therapy regimen, patients are up within 24 hours of surgery, walking and participating in group therapy with other joint-replacement patients.

"I had such good luck with the first one, I wouldn't have been comfortable going anywhere else," Kuhner said of his decision to go back to St. Mary's for his left-hip replacement.

The pain management was much better, he continued, saying he was awake the first time but this time he was put to sleep and if he needed pain medication, nurses administered it.

"What amazed me more than anything was that they didn't make you feel like you were taking too much," he said.

While he's not "bouncing back" as fast as he did from his first surgery because of his age, he was still able to go to his church's homecoming three days after his surgery, thanks to more physical therapy.

Joint Pain Seminar Friday

TELL CITY -- St. Mary's Joint Replacement Solutions will have a joint pain seminar Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Oakwood Health Campus in Tell City. Dr. Michael Boyd from Tri-State Orthopedic Surgeons will discuss treatment options available and answer questions about joint pain. To register call (812) 485-7260.