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New knees, new life: Patient regains mobility after knee replacement surgeries

IU Health Saxony Hospital

New knees, new life: Patient regains mobility after knee replacement surgeries

By Emma Avila,, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region

Stephen Schuyler had almost completely lost his mobility until knee replacement surgery at IU Health Saxony changed his life.

Last fall, Stephen Schuyler, 70, was having a difficult time getting around. He had severe pain in both legs when he tried to walk.

He connected with Dr. Kevin Sonn, an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in hip and knee replacements, at IU Health Saxony–soon to be IU Health Fishers.

Dr. Kevin Sonn
Dr. Kevin Sonn, orthopedic surgeon

“They got me in in a matter of less than two weeks,” Schuyler said. Dr. Sonn is very to the point, but he explains everything well.’”

“His diagnosis was bilateral knee osteoarthritis with complete wear of his cartilage to the point that he was bone-on-bone,” Sonn added. “Surgery was a good option because he had failed all nonoperative measures and his pain had become debilitating and lifestyle limiting.”

Imaging shows Shuyler's knees before (left) and after (right) his surgeries

The road to recovery

Schuyler had knee replacement surgery on his right knee in late January. He remembers the first few days of recovery being very painful, but by day four, he felt much better.

“It is painful. I’ve told everyone it is painful, but it’s also wonderful because now I can walk,” he said. “I wish I’d done it a long time ago.”

Schuyler walking around IU Health Saxony after his first surgery
Schuyler walking around IU Health Saxony after his first surgery

He knew he wanted the other knee replaced as well, but Sonn recommended waiting three months.

“There are no hard and fast rules in terms of how to best manage bilateral arthritic knees that are both ready for surgery. Some patients will undergo bilateral knee replacement, but that can carry additional risk and the recovery tends to be very difficult,” Sonn said. “Therefore, I normally recommend waiting three months to allow a patient to recover from the first side and get it strong so that it can be relied upon to recover from the other side.”

A new lease on life

Schuyler had surgery on his left knee in early May. Now, he is recovering through physical therapy and check ins with Sonn.

knee patient in physical therapy
Schuyler attending physical therapy after surgery

“He is doing very well four months after his first surgery and one month after his second surgery and is very happy with the outcome. After surgery, we see him at four weeks, four months, one year, two years and five years,” Sonn said.

Since both surgeries, Schuyler’s life has changed. He can now play with his girlfriend’s dog in the yard and walk up the bleachers to attend his grandchildren’s school events.

“It did change my life. I have to confess that,” Schuyler said. “I am mobile. I was not mobile before.”

Recognition for excellent care

IU Health Saxony recently earned The Joint Commissions’ Gold Seal of Approval® for Advanced Total Hip and Knee Replacement Certification by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The Gold Seal is a symbol of quality that reflects a health care organization’s commitment to providing safe and quality patient care.

The certification, offered in collaboration with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, focuses on the pre-surgical orthopedic consultation to the intraoperative, hospitalization or ambulatory surgical center admission, rehabilitation activities, and follow-up visit with the orthopedic surgeon.

“This certification is the highest level of distinction for hip and knee replacement care,” said Dr. Leonard Buller, medical director of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at IU Health Saxony. “The goal is to be evidence-based for the care of our patients as possible with everything being as up-to-date as possible.”

“For us, this is the routine day to day, but it has been built over the years to fine tune the care for each individual patient based on the most cutting edge and evidence-based practice available,” Sonn added. “It ensures that a patient coming to us for care is getting the best care possible all the way from the clinic to the operative room and through the full recovery after surgery.”

Dr. Leonard Buller
Dr. Leonard Buller, orthopedic surgeon

For patients, that means receiving the best possible care when they need their hip or knee replaced.

Buller stressed that this is a team-based effort.

“I think the personalized approach is one thing. I think the team-based approach is something we really need to emphasize,” he said. “It wouldn’t be possible without the excellent team and culture we’ve created. We all work well together as a team; it’s not just one person.”

“What sets us apart is the expertise of all team members. Every person participating in the care of our patients has extensive experience taking care of patients with their specific problem and that equates to the highest level of care with the lowest risk of complication,” Sonn said. “We pride ourselves on having the ability to take care of every single person who walks through our doors, including the state’s most complex hip and knee patients, while simultaneously providing excellent outcomes.”

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