Cutting edge techniques take stress out of joint replacement

Dr. Michael Kralovec 

Osteoarthritis, or “wear and tear” arthritis, is the leading cause of hip and knee pain in the U.S. The ends of our bones are covered in cartilage, a smooth, rubbery covering that allows the bones to glide on each other. Whether it be in the hip, knee or shoulder, this cartilage is what allows for pain-free motion of our joints.

As we age, the cartilage can begin to wear away. What is left is bone. Bones are living parts of our bodies and have pain receptors. So when the cartilage wears away and the bone begins to rub on bone, it is one of the most painful conditions.

The good news is that patients no longer have to live with this pain. My philosophy is to start with nonoperative treatment options and consider surgery only if necessary. If surgery is indicated, often it is joint replacement, where the worn out ends of the bone are replaced.

We have made significant advances over the last few years — which I learned in training at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard — that allow for a patient to recover faster and have less pain after joint replacement. Our advancements focus on four areas:

Accuracy: Proper planning is one of the most important keys to a successful outcome with surgery. I plan all of my surgeries on the computer, so I know exactly where each of the cuts need to be made and make a custom treatment plan for each patient.

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Pain control: I use a combination of numbing and pain medication that we developed at Mayo on the surgery site. This helps reduce the pain patients would have after surgery. More than 50 percent of my patients require no narcotic pain medicines after surgery.

Early recovery: Our recovery protocol has patients up walking with therapy within an hour after joint replacement, and often they can go home the same day of surgery.

Patient satisfaction: Following William Mayo's belief that “the needs of the patient come first,” everything is centered on patients feeling and acting like their normal selves as soon as possible after surgery and getting back to the activities they love without pain.

Dr. Michael Kralovec is an orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist at Lakeshore Bone and Joint Institute in Crown Point and Schererville. He is clinical director of the Franciscan Joint Replacement Center of Excellence in Munster. He did his residency training at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, and completed a fellowship in joint replacement at Harvard Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.