Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center's patient advocate is usually helping patients, and then she became one

Patient Finds Relief and Mobility with Knee Replacement from Sentara OrthoJoint Center

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Dr. Daniel Hampton of Sentara OrthoJoint Center® at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center reserves surgery as a last resort for patients with chronic knee pain.

When Karen Cribb, the Patient Advocate at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, became Dr. Hampton’s patient, he told her that eventually, she would need to have knee replacement surgery. After weighing the benefits and risks of surgery, they decided to try alternative therapies such as anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and injections first to see if they could manage her osteoarthritis, pain, and limited mobility issues without surgery.

Injections of corticosteroids provided temporary relief for Karen. However, when the medication wore off, the pain grew unbearable. Then, they tried a series of four shots designed to build cushioning around the knee, but that did not prove effective for her either.

“Those treatments work for different people to varying degrees,” said Dr. Hampton. “When it’s time for surgery, your body will tell you.”

Karen grew up playing sports like basketball and softball during a time when there were no professional coaches ensuring the safety of younger athletes. As she got older, her knees began to bother her.

“I truly didn’t pay attention to the pain, until I couldn’t participate in family activities the way I used to,” said Karen.

She finally realized her mobility restrictions as she listened to her husband and daughters plan a big family vacation to New England for her upcoming birthday. Well-intentioned, her husband and daughters repeatedly said, “Mom can’t do that, so we won’t do it.”

Karen acknowledged they were restructuring the fun activities around her pain. During her vacation, she was disappointed when she could not get to the top of a lighthouse in Maine or climb the steps at Bunker Hill in Boston. Karen wanted to be active and pain-free, so she could enjoy time with her family, and she resolved to do something about it.

Karen knew the time had come for surgery when she began to fall and make trips to the emergency room that caused her to miss family activities. The rest of Karen’s body was now compensating for her injured knee, and she eventually threw out her back. Her daughter was getting married soon, and she did not want her knee problems to interfere with the wedding. It was time to consider knee replacement surgery.

“Throwing out my back because of my knee pain was an eye opener,” Karen said. “That was the decision–making moment for me.”

Karen and Dr. Hampton set her surgery date for April.

“There is a very high success rate with knee replacement surgery,” Dr. Hampton said. “About 95 percent of patients do well with replacements.”

Patients who opt for knee replacement have an intense recovery period with several months of extensive physical therapy. "Additionally,” Dr. Hampton said, “there is a six-month check-up and another follow-up appointment at one year with periodic x-rays. Patients are then, typically seen annually.”

Surgery requires a close partnership between the patient, surgeon, and rehabilitation therapists. The patient must be motivated to adhere to the therapy regimen and stay active, even when there are some stiffness and pain. Walking, hiking, swimming, and other low impact exercises are excellent ways to stay active for those recovering from knee replacement surgery, and they carry the added benefit of potential weight loss, which further reduces pressure and strain on the knee.

The surgery itself was not painful for Karen. Her family was incredibly supportive, encouraging her to stay active, helping her recuperate, and driving her to her medical appointments during her recovery. When Karen returned to work, the staff at Sentara was also very supportive.

“This is what we do, for our patients and each other,” said Karen.

She and her coworkers even shared a good laugh about her bedazzled cane she used during her recovery. “Go gaudy or go home,” Karen joked.

Karen completed her physical therapy four months after her surgery. Overall, she describes the surgical experience as positive. She’s grateful for her improved quality of life.

“I really appreciate Dr. Hampton and the therapists saying that I can’t hurt the knee, but I will hurt myself if I don’t stay active,” Karen said. “It feels great to feel good.”

To find an orthopedic specialist near you call 1-800-SENTARA or visit: Sentara OrthoJoint Center® at https://www.sentara.com/woodbridge-virginia/medicalservices/services/joint-replacement.aspx.