Knee surgery gave a competitive walker his life back

Knee surgery gave a competitive walker his life back

This story was originally published in the Winter 2021 edition of Providence Health Matters.

Key takeaways:

  • Robotic knee replacement is more effective long-term than traditional surgery due to the optimal placement of the implant.
  • Providence orthopedic surgeons are skilled at offering MAKOPlasty, a less invasive form of knee replacement.
  • Professional athlete Bob Davidson was able to get back to competitive walking after healing from his surgery.

[3 MIN READ]

Bob Davidson isn’t your average 73-year old. In fact, he’s far more active than most people 50 years his junior. A competitive walker who logs 2,500 to 3,500 miles a year, he calculates that he’s already run/walked more than 100,000 miles in his life, starting in the early seventies.

So, when his right knee wouldn’t stop bothering him, Davidson, a Riverside resident, sought help. A hiking buddy who’d had both knees replaced recommended Ayaz A. Biviji, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Providence St. Joseph Hospital—the first hospital to bring orthopedic robotic surgery to Orange County, in 2012.

Davidson remembers his first conversation with Dr. Biviji. “I said, ‘I’m not just looking to walk to the early-bird special pain-free.’” Dr. Biviji, who specializes in treating problems of the hips, knees and shoulders, realized Davidson would be a dedicated patient.

Davidson was happy the total knee replacement—a procedure called MAKOPlasty—would be robot-assisted, utilizing the Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Technology, which was funded by philanthropic donations. Because MAKOplasty is minimally invasive, patients have a shorter hospital stay and less scarring.

Making A Blueprint

Dr. Biviji walked Davidson through what would happen. “Before surgery, we get a CT scan of the knee, which allows us to generate a three-dimensional model,” he explains. This enables doctors to do a simulated surgery before the actual procedure and ensure the right position, alignment, rotation and bone support. During surgery the implant positions are finely tuned to achieve the ideal knee and soft-tissue balance.

When it’s time for surgery, the patient’s knee or hip is “registered” with the robot, meaning “the robot knows where the person is in space,” says Biviji. “That keeps us on our plan.” The result is less trauma to surrounding tissue than in other types of knee surgery.

Recovery takes roughly the same amount of time as with traditional surgery—about three months. “The biggest impact is long term,” he says. “Because we’re able to put the implant in the optimal position, this should improve its longevity.”

A Great Outcome

As expected, Davidson was devoted to following his doctor’s post-op instructions. Although he was doing better, he hoped to have more flexibility. After discussing this with Dr. Biviji, it was decided that the doctor would perform a minor orthoscopic procedure to remove excessive scar tissue— this ultimately gave the avid walker a greater range of motion and flexibility in his knee.

Davidson had a specific reason for wanting to be in peak condition: he’d already signed up for the Six Days in the Dome Redux, a competitive walking/running event that would take place in August 2019—just seven months after his surgery. Davidson was able to achieve his goal and logged more than 200 miles on a quarter-mile track in the race.

“I’m a huge fan of Providence St. Joseph and the doc. My goal is to get another 25,000 miles out of my knee.”

Read Bob Davidson’s story here.

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Related resources

New Robotic-Arm Assisted Knee Replacement Surgery Available at Queen of the Valley

Get the facts on joint replacement surgery

Physical therapy after joint replacement

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.