When retired maintenance mechanic Jessie Hunt noticed his knee beginning to swell more than five years ago, he was told a shot was the best option. That idea didn’t appeal to him, so he made up his mind to live with the discomfort. Eventually, Hunt’s leg began to bow and he began using a cane to help him get around, but it wasn’t until a case of shingles led to a dropped foot that he decided it was time to see a specialist.
“It was kind of scary and I could tell my leg was getting worse, so I knew I was going to be in a wheelchair or housebound before long if I didn’t get something done,” Hunt recalls. “That’s when I went to the doctor for the shingles and that doctor referred me to an orthopedic doctor. When that doctor looked at my dropped foot, he referred me to Dr. Rapuri.”
Venkat Rapuri, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington and at Orthopedic Medicine Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, says he knew surgery was necessary when he saw the shape Jesse was in.
“When I saw him and his x-rays, my reaction was to wonder how on earth he was walking and functional,” Rapuri remembers. “He had severe arthritis and started developing extreme bowleg, which makes anybody’s life miserable. Jessie also developed a foot drop where the nerve went to sleep basically, and he didn’t have any function, so he was flapping his foot while he was walking. The bowleg and the foot drop made it extremely difficult for him to be performing any activities.”
More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed every year in the United States, most commonly due to pain and limited mobility caused by arthritis or injury. Joint replacement is usually recommended after treatments such as lifestyle changes, medication and/or physical therapy fail to provide relief.
While Hunt knew of family members who had hips and shoulders replaced, he didn’t realize joint replacement was so common. A bit of fear of the unknown and stories of post-operative pain kept him away from treatment until he couldn’t ignore his decreasing mobility.
“Dr. Rapuri said my knee was just about as bad as he’s ever seen with the bone to bone in the joint and the angle of it (from the bowing),” Hunt says. “The best option was to get it replaced. Because of the ligament damage he recommended a certain type of knee that has a prong sticking up. It goes up into the upper section which helps stabilize it without the ligaments doing all the work.”
Rapuri explains that due to the ligament damage in Hunt’s knee, a routine total knee replacement wasn’t the best course of action.
“You have two main ligaments on the sides of the knee called the medial collateral and lateral collateral, he says. “In the process of either developing a bowleg or the knock-knee, you will stretch one of the ligaments. Jessie stretched the ligament on the outside completely and then contracted the ligament on the inside.
“He didn’t need a general orthopedic surgeon to do a routine total knee replacement. He needed somebody who could figure out what was wrong, make the correction as needed to bring his knee back to normal alignment and then repair the nerve that was being stretched.”
Knee replacement surgery is often a game changer for people who have been living with pain and/or limited mobility. More than 90 percent of knee replacement surgery patients experience a significant improvement in their pain levels and the ability to resume many of their daily activities. While knee replacements don’t last forever, nine out of 10 replacements function well for 15 or more years.
It’s been more than six months since Hunt’s surgery and he says life is better than ever.
“Now that I’ve got my knee replaced, I have the confidence that I can do just about anything I want to do,” he says. “I’m going to keep on walking, keep on boogieing, going to the beach and going shopping. I go get groceries once a week, take the grandkids to school and bring them home.
“I’ve got my life back you might say. I do anything I want to do now so I’d recommend Dr. Rapuri to anybody. I don’t think you can get much better a doctor. He’s got experience and handles himself in a manner that is respectful but knowledgeable. I think he’s great.”
Rapuri says that while Hunt’s semi-constrained knee isn’t made for rigorous twisting and turning, his future prognosis is positive, something that is not lost on him.
“If Jessie sticks to routine exercise activities such as regular and/or fast walking, pool activities, cycling or a stationary bicycle, elliptical machines and stuff like that, his prognosis is pretty good, and he will probably return to full activities.
“It’s an enormous feeling to help somebody who has become either functionally deficient in their life or suffering from extreme pain and limited in their social or functional life. To bring them back to full activities and enjoying life is an enormous feeling.”
Physicians employed by Texas Health Physicians Group are not employees or agents of Texas Health Resources hospitals.