New knees get doctor back on track

DOWNEY - At one time he was used to an active lifestyle that included running, cycling and martial arts. Then, thanks to arthritis, the constant knee pain began and he had trouble walking. Dr. Ronald Pinkerton soon found himself pushing a walker as he made hospital rounds each morning.After battling severe arthritis in his knees for many years, Pinkerton knew that his immobility and chronic pain needed serious intervention. "I tried to live with the pain as long as I could, but the pain never went away. It just kept getting worse," said Pinkerton, a board-certified family medicine physician with CareMore who practices in Downey and surrounding areas. "It may have just been my knees, but my overall health suffered considerably as well." Pinkerton's chronic knee pain affected more than just his mobility. He gained more than 50 pounds because he could not exercise. As his weight ballooned, he found himself dealing with diabetes. "It was a hard time for me, all of these health consequences just because I could not move," he said. "As a physician, I knew what was happening to me but I was helpless to do anything about it." Unable to tolerate the pain any longer, Pinkerton began speaking with surgeons and researching his long-term treatment options. He knew it was time to get his knees replaced. Today's advanced total knee replacement is ideal for younger people who have been affected by arthritis and have lost the ability to perform routine daily functions without experiencing excruciating pain, say experts. Surgeons use high-strength metals and plastics to replace cartilage that has been naturally broken down to restore mobility and eliminate pain. "Dr. Pinkerton's experience with severe knee pain caused by arthritis is very typical," said Dr. Thomas Schmalzried, medical director of the Joint Replacement Institute at St. Vincent Medical Center, who performed the knee replacement surgery on Pinkerton. "We replaced both knees for him during one surgical procedure. His pain gradually decreased and he was able to move better right away. After rehabilitation, he was soon back to his activities such as martial arts and cycling. He even lost his excess weight because he could move again and enjoy the activities he once so loved. It has totally changed his life for the better." Pinkerton said his only regret is having waited years too long to have his knees replaced. Now in his 60s, his strength and agility continue to improve, and his overall experience with the pain and surgery has made him a better doctor. "It's funny when you limp into an exam room to talk to patients," he said. "Of course they always asked about my knees. I shared my pain with my patients and I think the experience has made me have more empathy for my patients who live with the chronic pain of arthritis. "It's made me a better doctor, and I have used my own personal medical journey to help motivate them to make positive changes in their lives."

********** Published: May 26, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 6