OrthoVirginia Blog

Multi-Generational Knee Replacements Restore Quality of Life


Trudy and her daughter Carol share more than a family resemblance. Both have struggled with worsening arthritis in their knees. While they were in Ocean City last summer, the pain was so bad that neither of them could walk from the beach blanket to the water. Mother and daughter made a pact: they’d each have a knee replacement when they returned to Northern Virginia in the fall.
Trudy went first. She’d already tried cortisone shots and lubricating injections to control her arthritis pain, under the care of OrthoVirginia surgeon Thomas Martinelli, MD. Eventually the shots stopped working, and walking and climbing stairs became so painful she didn’t want to go anywhere anymore. “When I couldn’t even walk on the beach I thought ‘this is ridiculous’ and scheduled my surgery,” she says. Dr. Martinelli replaced Trudy’s right knee and she was up and walking the next day. She spent just two nights in the hospital. After several weeks of physical therapy, she didn’t need a cane or walker anymore. One month later, she was completely pain free. “Dr. Martinelli called me his star patient,” she jokes.
At 81, Trudy thought she might be too old for knee replacement. But as Dr. Martinelli explains, age is not necessarily an obstacle. “Older people with severe osteoarthritis who are otherwise healthy can benefit tremendously from total knee replacement. Trudy had a great outcome and she’s back to doing all her daily activities without any pain or disability.”
Carol had her knee replacement with OrthoVirginia surgeon Mark Hartley, MD. She too had tried conservative measures – including physical therapy, cortisone shots and lubricating injections – to manage her pain and avoid surgery. At 56, she thought she might be too young for knee replacement. Not so, says Dr. Hartley. “Carol is the new face of joint replacement – young, active, healthy patients whose lives have become smaller due to debilitating arthritis pain, but who are not willing to accept those limitations.”
Age is no longer the factor it once was in knee replacement. Modern techniques allow orthopaedic surgeons to base surgical decisions on a patient’s pain and disability, not necessarily chronological age. Likewise, the notion that prosthetic implants will wear out quickly is a myth. Thanks to improvements in materials and design, the vast majority of knee implants will last 20 years or more. Current techniques and materials might prove to last even longer.
Both Carol and her mother benefited from the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques, including smaller incisions, less tissue trauma and bleeding, shorter hospital stays and a faster overall recovery. Immediately after her surgery, Carol walked from the door of her hospital room to the bed. “It makes you realize you can put weight on your knee right away,” she says. “They don’t want you sitting around after a knee replacement; they want you up and moving.” Her mother’s quick and trouble-free recovery was a great motivator for Carol, who secretly worried she wouldn’t do as well. Her concerns were unwarranted. She returned to her job as an IT manager within two weeks of her surgery and recently walked her first 5K race. Eventually, Carol will need her other knee replaced. When the time comes, she has no hesitation.
With two positive outcomes in the family, Trudy and Carol don’t hesitate to recommend Dr. Martinelli, Dr. Hartley and OrthoVirginia to relatives and friends. As Trudy says, “I have one other daughter. So far, she hasn’t complained about her knees. But I know where to send her if she does.”

About the Authors:

Mark C. Hartley, MD, earned a BA from Princeton University and an MS from Georgetown University.  He received a medical degree from Georgetown University.  He received a medical from Georgetown University School of Medicine and stayed on at Georgetown to complete both his surgical internship and orthopaedic residency.  Dr. Hartley served as Chief of the Total Joint Replacement Service at Eisenhower Army Medical Center.

Thomas A. Martinelli, MD, graduated cum laude with a BS in Biology from Rennselaer in Troy, New York.  Dr. Martinelli earned his medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, attending on a Navy HPSP Scholarship.  He then completed a six year residency in orthopaedic surgery at Georgetown University Medical Center.