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St. James Maintains State of the Art Edge

February 05, 2010
St. James Maintains State of the Art Edge with New Technology GPS systems mapping: The future of joint replacement surgery By Paula J. McGarvey for The Montana Standard - 01/31/2010 As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Nicholas Blavatsky knows he has to stay on the cutting edge in both the operating room and in a competitive health-care market. That's why Blavatsky began using the computer-assisted navigation system by Stryker on his patients requiring knee replacement surgery at Montana Orthopedics in Butte, last year. "Navigation in a nutshell — is GPS," Blavatsky said. Micah Panning, navigation sales consultant at Stryker, said the system truly does operates like a global positioning system, helping the surgeon to insert joint replacements during surgery. "It provides the surgeon with an interactive display of the lines, angles and measurements needed to better position a patient's knee implant," he said. "What it allows, is a very accurate mapping of the joint that produces a 3-D image," Blavatsky said. That image helps align the new joint within a greater degree of accuracy, which translates into less wear and tear after surgery, lengthening the life of the artificial joint. "We don't want to be redoing these every seven to eight years," Blavatsky said. Precise coordinates help keep the procedure minimally invasive, leaving patients with smaller scars and a shorter healing time. In the past nine months, Blavatsky has performed more than 200 computer-assisted navigation knee replacement surgeries. Both Blavatsky and his patients are in agreement — getting directions can be a very good thing. "You can tell the difference. It's subtle, but the recovery and the ability to get the motion back sooner are noticeable," Blavatsky said. The proof is in the patients. "We're seeing more patients now than we ever have," Larry Curran, Montana Orthopedics administrator, said. The combination of increased longevity and new techniques becoming available has made joint replacement surgery a reasonable solution to deteriorating joints, providing patients with an alternative to living with pain and decreased mobility. And, Curran's staff of orthopedic surgeons understands the importance of keeping their skills up-to-date and marketable. "The physicians here truly strive to stay current on the latest available techniques," Curran said. Staying current keeps patients like Karen Lubick of Butte, staying in town for surgery. Lubick, 66, talked recently about her own computer-assisted navigation knee replacement surgery done by Dr. Blavatsky in September. "I have so many friends that have had hip and knee replacements and gone out of town, and I ask them ‘why?' We've got some of the best doctor's right here," she said. Lubick was in a position to compare how far knee replacement technology had come in the last decade. She had her first knee replacement in 2001, roughly 30 years after a breaking her left knee and femur in an accident. Normal wear and tear combined with damage from the accident had left her in chronic pain and unable to perform her activities of daily living. She had her left knee surgically replaced and after a lengthy recovery, and a lengthy scar, she was able to resume a normal life. When her right knee began to hurt and swell last year, she made an appointment with Blavatsky. Blavatsky determined that years of favoring her left leg before her first surgery, had ultimately caused undue wear on her right knee, she said. He suggested replacing the worn joint with a new one composed of titanium and chrome. Lubick commented on life after knee-replacement, the second time around. "I found the whole operation to be easier," she said. Lubick went through physical therapy for six weeks and continued with some exercises at home. Four months later, she is back to normal activity. "I have no more pain and no more swelling and I'm so happy. I have stairs in my house and I have to use them every day — and I can," she said with a smile.