Total Joint Replacement Ends Pain, Promotes Independence

By Astrid Frederick

After decades in the workforce—including the deli of a popular Alaskan grocery store chain, and a preschool in southern Oregon—Astrid Frederick, 67, finally has complete control of how she spends her time.

Now retired, Frederick planned to keep her days exciting by doing the thing she loves most: hiking, gardening, volunteering with young children at her local church, and walking her 12-acre property in Goldendale, Washington.

Astrid doing farm workBut knee pain was stealing her hobbies and passions.

“Going upstairs was hard for me,” Frederick said. “We have a lot of land, so I like to walk around the gardens. I couldn't do that anymore. I couldn’t hike. I couldn’t kneel, couldn't bend my knee very much without a lot of pain.”

Last November, Dr. James Reardon, an orthopedist at Mid-Columbia Medical Center, performed a total joint replacement on her right knee. After four months of recovery, Frederick has very little pain and is looking forward to resuming the activities she loves most.

“I may be 67, but I’m young at heart,” she said. “I don’t let age bring me down, because it’s just a number and an attitude. God’s still got things for me to do.

Total joint surgery can be life changing. Here are answers to a few of the most common questions about total joint knee, hip, and shoulder surgery from Dr. Reardon, a total joint replacement specialist.

Dr. Reardon practiced for 22 years in Kansas City and chaired the orthopedic joint replacement service of a large Kansas City hospital. He has performed thousands of the most common orthopedic procedures, from sports injuries total hip, knee, and shoulder replacements.

How do patients benefit from total joint replacement?

Astrid doing farm workI’ve done this for 25 years. I have come to the conclusion, both from personal experience and reading the latest medical research, that total joint replacement is a very safe surgery that helps people maintain their independence and enjoyment of life. There are always risks with any surgery, but the risks are very small with this common orthopedic procedure.

Total joint replacement can be lifesaving. Total joint surgery allows people to continue to exercise, continue to drive, continue to enjoy themselves. All those things add up to enjoyment and longevity.

What is surgery like?

The morning of the surgery, you will meet the anesthesiologist, if you haven’t met him already. You will also meet your surgeon. The surgery takes about an hour and a half, and then you will be in the recovery room.

We are really good now at pain control, which is probably the biggest thing that has changed over the last five years. We’re moving away from narcotics for pain control, due to anti-inflammatory drugs and new surgical techniques.

We still have to use some narcotics, but we use a lot less than we used to. There’s also less pain, fewer complications, and quicker return to full range of motion.

Many medical centers are doing total joint surgery as outpatient now. At MCMC, most total joint patients go home the next day. We probably could let them go home from the recovery room, but we like to keep them overnight to make sure they are ok.

What’s recovery like?

After surgery, you will be in physical therapy. For a total knee replacement, for example, you will go to therapy for several months to strengthen and improve the motion of your knee. This optimizes your results after the surgery. But like all your joints, your new joint will require lifelong maintenance.

Am I too old for surgery?

It has more to do with health than age. My oldest total knee patient was a 95-year-old that lives independently but had a terrible knee.

Your surgeon will want to make sure you don’t have any health conditions that will cause problems during surgery. You may need to visit your primary care doctor, a cardiologist, sleep doctor if you have obstructive sleep apnea, a hematologist if you or any close relatives have had blood clots, and an endocrinologist if you have diabetes.

I’m considering total joint surgery. What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Is there anything you can do other than joint replacement?

  • How many surgeries have you done?

  • Can you provide patient referrals?

  • Does the hospital provide recovery support, such as inpatient therapy, visiting nurses, and home health?

If you’re not certain about your total joint replacement, get a second opinion. You won’t hurt your doctor’s feelings. The best way to find a qualified orthopedic surgeon is to ask a physical therapist. They see everybody’s patients. If you’re considering surgery, ask a physical therapist who they would go to.

Most of the time the joint will last the lifetime of the patient. As with anything in your life, the more you take care of it the longer it will last.

Before surgery, on a scale of one to 10, Frederick’s pain was a 10. She relied on ice packs and Tylenol to get through the day. Now, she is looking forward to hiking with her family and is planning a trip to Germany and France, where she lived as a young child.

“Sure, there’s a little bit of pain involved afterwards,” she said. “It’s certainly worth it to be able to go and do the things you liked to do before, like walking and hiking, seeing the world. Just do it. You’ll be happy you did.”

About Dr. James Reardon

Dr. James Reardon is an orthopedist and total joint replacement specialist at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. He practiced for 22 years in Kansas City and chaired the orthopedic joint replacement service of a large Kansas City hospital before relocating to The Dalles. Dr. Reardon has performed thousands of the most common orthopedic procedures, from sports injuries to total hip and knee replacements.

Learn more about Dr. Reardon

Contact MCMC Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Surgery

Water’s Edge
511 Lone Pine Blvd
The Dalles, OR 97058
Ph: 541.506.6500

Nichols Landing
33 Nichols Parkway
Hood River, OR 97031
Ph: 541.308.1015