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Published on March 05, 2018

Thomas Ambrose, MD and Keith Ballinger

Partial Knee Replacement “Perfect Fit” For Busy Bus Driver

When you’re at the wheel of a tour bus that’s crisscrossing North America, knee pain rides along for every mile. If it feels like your knee is on fire every time you climb the bus stairs, or you have to stop and rest during a walking tour of something as beautiful as the Grand Canyon, you know the time has come.

You need relief.

“Just to get out of bed and go to the bathroom at home, there was lots of popping and cracking,” said Keith Ballinger, 59, of Garretson, S.D. “I knew knee pain – I had a total knee replacement on the other side, and it came from years of abuse in the Navy, running and working hard.”

Ballinger said he was skeptical when Thomas Ambrose II, MD, FACS, Avera Orthopedics, recommended a partial knee replacement surgery as the relief for his ongoing pain. But he listened to the surgeon – and he’s glad he did.

“I was the first one in that morning, and the turnaround was so quick – I was home that evening and sleeping in my bed that night,” he said. “I had surgery in the morning and by 3 p.m. that afternoon – no pain at all. There was some swelling, but no pain. I was walking and working with the physical therapy team three hours after I went to surgery.”

His July 2017 surgery was a success, and Ballinger went back to his work as a tour driver and guide, as well as his prison ministry and counseling work. He said the newest knee – in his collection of two – feels more natural and allows a wider range of motion. Just two weeks after that surgery, he was at the helm of the bus and off on another cross-country trip. He was a full week ahead of the typical three-week recovery most folks face with this sort of joint surgery.

“We hope to educate people that no pain in the joints is considered normal, and for Keith, he was in a lot of pain,” said Ambrose, who explained that the continuum of care for joint pain can include anti-inflammatory drugs, therapy and injections. “The hard part for us is we cannot tell how bad the pain is. Keith had pain, stiffness and instability, as well as a bow-legged change in the way he walked.”

As active as Ballinger was, and after evaluating medical imaging, Ambrose pitched the partial replacement. Knee replacement considers three areas of the knee, made of up of bones, tendons, muscles and ligaments, and in this case the pain was only coming from one of those three areas. X-rays showed the arthritis affecting the joint also was limited to just one area.

“Ten minutes after we attach the components to the bone and the surgery’s done, it’s as strong as it’ll be – it’s good and solid,” Ambrose said. “He came in, had surgery and was home again, all in less than 12 hours.”

Ballinger completed his therapy, got back to work and now he can certainly attest to the partial replacement’s place in orthopedic care.

“I’m a big advocate, in part because of the quick turn-around, and also because of the more-natural feeling I have in that knee,” he said. “Before I’d have to stop and rest even if I was only walking 100 yards. Now I’m good to go.”

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