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News | one month ago

Take Ownership of Your Health for a Successful Joint Replacement

If you’re coping with chronic joint pain, don’t wait another day to fix it! Todd Wicker took charge of his health and got the knee replacement he needed to improve his mobility and quality of life.

Todd Wicker, a 60-year-old senior sales manager, is always on the go. Through his work, he’s traveled to 28 countries around the world. So he spends a lot of time in airports and airplanes. As an avid fan of the University of South Carolina Athletics, he loves going to basketball, baseball and football games.

Twelve years ago, arthritis in his right knee started bothering him. Multiple orthopedic doctors told him he was too young to have a knee replacement and needed to lose weight. Even when he met certain weight loss goals, the doctors delayed scheduling his surgery for several months.

The pain became so unbearable that Todd couldn’t walk more than 10 yards at a time. His range of motion was so limited that he couldn’t fully extend or bend his knee. It was painful for him to sit in an airplane seat and walk long distances at the airport. He could only attend football games as a tailgater outside the stadium. While on a cruise with his wife, his knee pain prevented him from joining shore excursions at the various ports.

“The pain and lack of mobility affected my quality of life,” Todd explains. “I started gaining weight because I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do, which sent me into a deep depression.”

Todd tried over-the-counter arthritis medications and every kind of knee brace, but nothing brought him lasting relief. 

Empowered to make changes

In July, Dr. Olga Decker, Todd’s primary care doctor at Atrium Health Primary Care Fort Mill Internal Medicine, referred him to Dr. Kevin Weiss, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacement surgery with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute

“I was looking for a doctor who could understand where I was coming from,” Todd says. “When I found out that Dr. Weiss had experienced leg and knee pain as a child, I knew he would understand my situation. After everyone else had given up on me, Dr. Weiss truly believed in me.”

Weiss described Todd’s condition as debilitating, end-stage arthritis. His knee joint had completely collapsed, resulting in bone-on-bone arthritis. His knee was so stiff that it led to a deformity in his leg, making it appear bowed.

“Unfortunately, obesity tends to be a challenge for patients with arthritis,” notes Weiss. “It’s difficult for many obese patients to remain active since their joints are hurting so much. And excess weight can cause complications, including infection and blood clots, during and after joint replacement surgery.”

Although weight management may be a sensitive topic with some patients, Weiss strives to be open and proactive, encouraging them to get healthy enough to safely proceed with surgery.

“It’s important to make people feel like they have options to improve their health,” says Weiss. “Sometimes solutions to health problems don’t happen overnight. But if you take ownership of your health, you can make positive changes and have a great outcome.”

Weiss recommended that Todd lose 40 pounds to qualify for surgery. He told Todd that he would schedule his surgery for three months away. If he met his weight loss goal, the surgery would happen as scheduled.

“For me, it was personal,” Todd says. “I knew what I needed to do, and I was determined to win this battle.”

In three months, Todd lost an incredible 61 pounds. Decker helped Todd, who had prediabetes, kick-start his health journey by prescribing a diabetes medication that accelerates weight loss. Todd also increased his activity level and “drank water by the gallon.”

Before surgery, Todd had his heart checked to make sure he was safe to proceed. When he got the all-clear, his surgery was confirmed for early October.

Robotic-assisted surgery

Weiss used robotic-assisted surgery to replace Todd’s damaged knee. This cutting-edge technology allowed Weiss to resurface his knee and replace it with an implant made of metal and plastic. The procedure allows the knee to move smoothly while improving range of motion and flexibility.

“Robotic-assisted surgery doesn’t take the place of the surgeon, who still has to understand the goals, make the decisions and perform the procedure,” Weiss explains. “But it provides additional data that we can use to increase surgical accuracy and give the patient the best possible outcome.”

Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute remains at the forefront of the newest joint replacement technology, providing access to the latest implants and equipment. The knee implants Weiss uses are designed to last 20-30 years in most patients.

Personalized care

At Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute, the care team maintains open communication and follows patients from Day 1. That means they meet with and support patients before, during and after surgery. Following surgery, the team stays in touch with patients to ensure they are doing their therapy and getting the appropriate clearances needed to resume daily activities.

“Dr. Weiss called me the night before my surgery and told me not to worry about anything,” says Todd. “He said, ‘We’ve got this – you’re in the best hands.’ I really appreciated him providing that reassurance. It made me feel like he cared about me as a person.”

Todd was also impressed that Weiss was willing to postpone his vacation two days to perform his surgery.

Following the procedure, Weiss’ team kept in touch with Todd and answered any questions he had. When he needed his bandage changed, they had him come in immediately.

Incredible results

“All my challenges were gone when I woke up from surgery,” says Todd. “I didn’t need to take any pain medicine following the procedure. It was almost like I was born with a new leg.”

Two days after surgery, Todd was discharged from the hospital. One week after surgery, Todd started physical therapy. He walked into the rehabilitation center without a walker. His physical therapy team said his recovery was six weeks ahead of schedule. On day four of physical therapy, Todd was able to bend his knee to 120 degrees.

“It was the best,” Todd says. “I was amazed that I was back to work just three weeks after surgery.” 

According to Weiss, Todd had great results because he was so receptive to talking about improving his health before surgery and putting in the needed work.

Maintaining health and encouraging others

Todd is continuing physical therapy for his right knee. Since we last spoke with Todd, he had his left knee replaced. During Todd’s most recent checkup, Weiss described his new knees as perfect.

Todd no longer needs a knee brace to walk. His surgical scars are healing well and are barely visible. Todd is now free to do the activities he loves, including spending time with his wife and their two sons, without pain or discomfort. Todd can also enjoy traveling again and attending sporting events inside the stadium. He remainsdedicated to maintaining his weight loss and staying healthy.

Todd’s case is a perfect example of why Weiss loves his job.

“It’s so rewarding to see people getting back to who they are and enjoying their life without debilitating pain,” Weiss says. “To be able to help someone achieve those things is very satisfying. I do what I do for people like Todd.”

Todd offers these words of wisdom to other arthritic patients:

“Please don’t wait as long as I did. Doctors have new ways of doing the procedures. Replacement knees are designed to outlast older ones. Lose the weight and it will all work out!”

Learn more about expert orthopedic care at Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute.