Judy Powell couldn’t imagine missing out on her annual visits to Walt Disney World. But right knee pain from osteoarthritis – also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis – made it impossible to take long treks through her favorite amusement park.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that causes the tissues in the joint to break down. Joint pain and stiffness can become severe enough to make simple daily tasks difficult.
Powell was no stranger to knee surgery; she had her left knee replaced seven years prior but was reluctant to have the procedure again.
“I waited longer than I should have for right knee surgery. I couldn’t walk very far and was wearing a knee brace just to do everyday activities,” she said. “My quality of life and daily activities were decreasing because of pain.”
When Powell’s pain became unbearable and conservative treatments were no longer helping, she made an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon, Richard Picerno, MD, with Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute.
New program to prepare for surgery
Dr. Picerno told Powell about a program called Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS). ERAS is a care plan that helps patients prepare their bodies before the procedure, recover safely afterward and return home as soon as possible.
Leading up to surgery, patients are asked to stop smoking, exercise, eat well-balanced meals and add more protein to help the body heal. Additionally, patients are encouraged to fuel their bodies for surgery. That means carbohydrate loading with clear liquids up to two hours before the scheduled arrival time for surgery.
“I’ve been in health care for 37 years,” said Powell, a senior systems analyst at Baptist Health. “We’ve always told patients not to eat or drink after midnight before surgery – that’s what we were taught, and I never even questioned it. I was happy to hear about the medical studies that supported the new program.”
Powell followed the pre-surgery program and had good results.
“I felt stronger and better prepared,” she said.
Less pain and shorter hospital stay
Powell checked into Baptist Medical Center South about four hours before her surgery. She had a carbohydrate-loaded drink to give her body some energy, then a couple of hours later she received a shot to help prevent post-surgical pain.
During the knee surgery, Dr. Picerno removed the worn and arthritic bone surfaces and replaced them with metal and plastic implants, which ideally function as if there was never any damage.
“Dr. Picerno is fabulous. He held my hand and prayed for me, and I had so much peace before going into the operating room,” Powell said. “He explained everything and never made me feel rushed during an appointment.”
Powell said the difference between her first and second knee replacement recoveries was like night and day.
“The ERAS program is amazing,” she said. “There was much less pain with the second surgery. I was in the hospital one less day than with the first surgery. I could have gone home the same day if my procedure had been earlier. I was also on a lower dose of narcotic pain medicine with the second surgery.”
From tears to laughter
Powell went home the morning after surgery. She laughed and joked with her husband during the car ride, which was a different experience than after her first knee replacement, when she cried in pain all the way home.
During recovery, she needed minimal pain medication and was able to quickly begin in-home physical therapy and resume working from home. Six weeks later, Powell regained enough strength and mobility to begin outpatient physical therapy and return to work in person.
“Overall, it was a much better recovery. I went home without pain, and my pain later was well managed. The new process prepared me for surgery, helped me heal, and I was able to go home quickly,” she said.
Powell is pleased with her progress since the surgery and has achieved her ultimate goal – to walk around Disney all day pain-free. In fact, she was able to visit four parks in three days.
“I endured pain for years,” said Powell. “I’m happy to return to my regular life and enjoy the activities I love.”
Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute specialists are employed by Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute. Physicians providing care at Baptist hospitals are not employees or agents of the hospital.