The gratification of walking pain-free

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Not satisfied with a knee procedure she’d had, Liz found another surgeon who used advanced technology to relieve her constant pain.

This was not the life Liz dreamed she would be living.

The mother and grandmother loved nothing more than spending time and playing around with her family, but the pain in her knee kept her out of the fun and forced to watch from the sideline.

Her debilitating pain forced her to rely on friends and family for virtually everything—simple, everyday tasks like grocery shopping and doing the laundry.

And what really perplexed her was that her pain was supposed to have already been relieved by surgery.

“My former doctor told me that he would only do a partial knee replacement, that that was all I needed,” Liz said. “My pain never went away. It even got worse.”

Life-changing pain

Three years after her partial knee replacement, the debilitating pain in her right knee left her with such decreased mobility that she could not walk any distance without assistance—a cane for short distances and a walker for more significant distances.

She loved to can fruits and vegetables. Couldn’t can. She was in a bowling league. Couldn’t bowl anymore.

“I was just tired of being in pain,” she said. “I was in pain all the time. I talked to my primary care doctor, and he recommended Dr. Wagner.”

Dr. Michael Wagner was familiar with this type of situation.

The McLaren Macomb orthopedic surgeon has experience with revision procedures, in which he replaces joint implants with other, properly functioning materials.

“Revisions can be common because implants do wear out over time,” Dr. Wagner said, “but Liz’s case was more unique in that her pain persisted after her partial knee procedure, and she needed to be converted to a full knee replacement.”

This revision would require Dr. Wagner to remove the worn implant as well as diseased portions of bone to provide Liz with a better joint surface. Even with revisions, Dr. Wagner’s goal is still to maintain as much of his patient’s bone, ligaments and muscles as possible.

“With total knee replacements, we like to keep as much natural, healthy bone in the joint as possible,” he said. “To keep as much bone as possible in Liz’s knee, we would need to perform at a high level of precision.”

Robotic assisted

To achieve this level of precision, Dr. Wagner would utilize Mako robotic arm technology. This leading-edge piece of surgical equipment allows orthopedic surgeons to achieve that level of precision by tailoring cases to each patient’s unique anatomy.

“To give Liz the best possible revision,” Dr. Wagner said, “using Mako would make this procedure go a lot smoother.”

Said Liz, still frustrated with her first surgery, “I had confidence after first meeting Dr. Wagner—I had high hopes. He said it was in my best interest for him to use the robot. And he was right.”

In late April, Liz received her full knee replacement. She was up and walking that day.

She returned home the next day and after just three weeks of physical therapy (as opposed to four months after her previous procedure), the pain in her knee was finally gone.

“I had no doubts that this would work,” she said.

Liz was so impressed with the outcome of her knee that she allowed herself to dream bigger.

“During her first follow-up appointment, she asked when she could get her hip done,” Dr. Wagner said. “I told her, ‘Let’s let the knee fully heal first, then we’ll talk about your hip.’”

He kept his promise. Just three months after her knee procedure, Dr. Wagner, again using the Mako robotic arm, replaced Liz’s hip.

“I always like to tell my patients that form equals function,” Dr. Wagner said. “We need precision to achieve proper form and, as a result, function. Mako provides us with that level of precision. Liz is a perfect example of the benefits of this technology.”

Liz, now back—pain-free—on two legs, can do for herself what she once had to rely on friends and family for.

“I can do it all myself again,” she said.