Arthritis of the hip and knee is an often debilitating ailment that affects millions of individuals of all ages. It used to be that individuals suffering from arthritis of these joints faced a difficult decision—continue to suffer from the stiffness, swelling, and pain in these joints caused by arthritis, or undergo traditional joint replacement—a major surgery that involves the physician making an 8-to-12-inch incision and cutting through the major muscles and tendons surrounding the joint to insert the prosthesis. Traditional joint replacement requires a hospital stay of several days followed by a lengthy recovery that can take three months or longer. The pain involved as well as the recovery time required often eliminates this option for many individuals.
When patients meet with Dr. Richard Berger, orthopedic surgeon at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and assistant professor of orthopedics at Rush University Medical Center, they soon find out that his advances in hip and knee replacement surgery dramatically reduce the recovery time typical of a traditional joint replacement, making him a cut above the rest.
Having obtained an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before attending medical school at Tufts University, Dr. Berger developed a minimally invasive approach to hip and knee replacement surgery that allows him to insert the prosthesis without cutting through the patient’s muscle, tendons, and ligaments. He helped design the tools and prosthesis he uses that enable him to work through this much smaller incision. With less cutting during surgery, the patient experiences reduced trauma and is able to recover much more quickly than those who undergo a traditional joint replacement. In fact, Dr. Berger’s technique is so minimally invasive that he is able to perform joint replacement surgery on an outpatient basis; meaning his patients walk, climb, and descend stairs, and are discharged from the hospital just hours after surgery. Most patients are back to work and their daily activities just a few weeks after surgery.
Minimally invasive joint replacement surgery is appropriate for many different types of patients. Younger patients, once discouraged to wait until they are older, are now undergoing surgery with Dr. Berger to help get back to work, care for their children, or continue their beloved sports. The reduction in pain, trauma, and recovery time also make surgery with Dr. Berger manageable for individuals with compromised health, such as those who suffer from chronic illness like diabetes or who have recently gone through cancer treatment.
The difference in Dr. Berger’s practice lies not only in his technique, but also in his emphasis on patient education and care. The experience starts with the patient’s first phone call to his office when his new patient liaison answers any questions and sets the patient up with an initial consultation, and continues long after the surgery as his nurses and discharge liaison ensure that all areas of treatment have been covered. Through every step of the process, Dr. Berger and his professional staff offer continuity in care to ensure the best possible outcome for each patient. “People shouldn’t let pain from arthritis stop them from daily activities and the things that make them feel normal,” Dr. Berger says. “With minimally invasive surgery, patients return to work, their activities, and their lives much more quickly.”