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Joint Replacements Become a Family Affair

Mark Springer and Vicki McMullen are two sisters who don’t mind sharing a room.

The sisters from Cape Girardeau, Mo., are former teachers who live down the street from each other. They also share a family trait of arthritis.

Eighteen years ago, Paul Lux, MD, orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, performed knee replacements on them both on the same day. They shared a hospital room.

Their knees have felt fine every since but their hips began hurting. June 26 the two returned to Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital and Dr. Lux for hip replacement surgery. They once again shared a hospital room.

Dr. Lux has operated on other family pairs including brothers in law and husband and wives like Paul and Ruth Rahlfs. “Dr. Jeff Martin and I started performing joint replacements at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital 20 years ago,” Dr. Lux says.

The Rahlfs have shared a lot during their 48 years of marriage. On July 29, the couple from Chester, Ill., both underwent a right total knee replacement performed by Dr. Lux. Both had been experiencing right knee pain that interfered with their usual busy schedule of working with the Boy Scouts, camping and keeping up with five grandchildren.

“A friend spoke very highly of Dr. Lux and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, so we went to see him, and our right knees were found to be bone on bone,” says Ruth Rahlfs. “We received excellent care.”

“Dr. Lux is so wonderful and personable,” Springer says.“He is never in a rush.”

Springer and McMullen say that recuperating at the same time eased their recovery. They leaned on each other for support and motivation during their recovery from hip replacements. Both look forward to resuming their usual activities, including watching their grandchildren play baseball and softball. They say they wouldn’t hesitate to make the two-hour drive to Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital if they ever need care again.

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Janet, ADVANCE STATURE® Medial-Pivot Knee

 Janet, a 58 year-old nurse in Jefferson City, started running in 1987 and quickly immersed herself in what would become her favorite pastime. However, a few years later, she injured her knee while playing basketball with her son and underwent surgery to repair the meniscus. Though the discomfort from her injury was initially relieved, arthritis increasingly took hold, causing stiffness and pain.

Undeterred, Janet pushed through her pain, running twenty miles per week and successfully completing six marathons. Although she was able to run with minimal distress, the soreness returned with a vengeance in the nights and mornings following her exercise. In 2005, after years of pushing the envelope, Janet's knee began bowing and the muscle mass in her left knee began to break down. Janet noticed that her stride changed, the pain had spread to her hip and that it was increasingly difficult to run.

In December 2006, Janet consulted with Dr. Paul Lux of the St. Louis Orthopedic Center to discuss her options. Dr. Lux explained to Janet that a total knee replacement with Wright's ADVANCE STATURE® Medial-Pivot Knee made with BIOFOAM® Metal could possibly enable her to run again, as it featured a tapered design that would provide a better fit for her narrow knee. Research shows that knee replacements specialized to fit each patient enable greater stability and mobility.

The operation took place in January 2007. After ten weeks of physical therapy, including pool running, and an additional month of rest Janet started off slow, but pushed herself further and faster, until she returned to her pre-surgery activities.

Janet explains the feeling of being able to return to her active lifestyle again as, "Instead of saying to myself that I can't do something, I'm going to keep pushing myself to do better!"

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Woman, 58, completes a marathon after knee replacement surgery

Janet Morgan might not have the fame, fortune and fan base those other guys do. But Dr. Paul Lux, her knee surgeon at The Orthopedic Center, thinks she might be a better testament to what modern medicine can do for athletes other than the Cardinals.

"I've had knee-replacement patients who've been very, very active," Lux says. "They've biked the MS 150 or won speed skating medals in the Senior Olympics. They've won body building competitions and hockey games and brought me the puck. But Janet is the first person that I know of who has run a marathon after a knee replacement. Running is the hardest thing you can do to a knee."

Morgan began running in 1987, but a couple of years later, she injured her knee while playing basketball with her son. She had surgery to repair her meniscus in 1989. It healed nicely, she says, but as the years passed, arthritis in that knee grew increasingly worse, making her job as a nurse painful.

Lux says Morgan came along at the perfect time. A number of important advances had just happened.

Surgery had become minimally invasive, thanks to changes in instrumentation. Lux was able to make a small incision to install the knee and didn't have to cut the quadricep away from the kneecap, which preserved the muscle's function.

Lux installs the Biofoam knee on all clients now, young and old, active and sedentary. They cost about $5,000, the same as other replacements, and last about 20 years, he says.

He told Morgan she could continue running after her surgery, but that it would shorten the life of her new knee. She'll probably have to have another surgery to change out a plastic disk in 10 to 15 years, he says.

"It's a 15-minute surgery, but that's a sacrifice she's willing to make, and I'm OK with that," Lux says, "She had the knee done so she could take her life back, and I'm not going to limit her."

By last fall, she'd returned to her pre-surgery pace and distances. So she signed up for the GO! St. Louis Marathon in April.

Morgan ran it faster than her last one, which was pre-surgery, yet slower than she'd hoped.

"But it was also the first marathon where I didn't say to myself that I'm never going to do this again," Morgan says. "Instead I crossed the finish line and said 'I'm going to do another because I want to do it better.' "

Says Lux: "I felt like it was my victory as much as hers. I can't believe she actually did it."

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New Knees That Fit

Kelly Kirkbride considers it a miracle she’s back on the job as an attorney.

"The standing, the stairs, just even walking from my car to the building was impossible," Kirkbride says.

For years, her knees hurt so badly, she could barely function. Now, she and others are finding new life in a recently- approved knee replacement.

"A knee replacement is a quarter-inch metal and plastic surface and it only replaces the articular cartilage in the knee. That’s what wears out when you get osteoarthritis," says Paul Lux, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the Orthopedic Center of St. Louis.

Until recently, doctors doing joint replacement surgery had only a few knee sizes to choose from. The newly approved Advanced Stature knee offers more narrow sized options to give patients a better fit.

"This gave us a whole variety of sizes and people who before we had to compromise on, sort of, ‘This fits okay but it’s not perfect.’ Now, we can say that things are getting pretty close to fitting perfect," Dr. Lux says.

The newer replacements last about twenty years and can be easily replaced. Dr. Lux says younger patients are choosing the surgery so they can return to their active lives.

"With this knee replacement, if you wanted to snow-ski or water-ski or play golf -- that’s fine," Dr. Lux says.

With two new knees, Kirkbride can go out to movies, clean her house -- even use stairs.

"I have not enjoyed doing things like this in so long."

Best of all, she greets each day without pain.

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“Thank you for my fabulous hip replacement and the
exceptional surgery you performed.”
- C. Weidner