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Robotic-Assisted Orthopedic Surgery Brings New Options to O'Neill-Area Joint Replacement Patients

Jan 17, 2024 (0)

O'NEILL, Neb. (Jan. 15, 2024) – A new robotic-assisted surgery option at Avera St. Anthony's Hospital is helping patients like retired O'Neill dentist Dr. Jerry Brockman stay active. 

The 75-year-old enjoys mountain biking, cross-country skiing and hiking – activities he was excited to get back to with renewed vigor after an August total knee replacement surgery performed by Dr. Ryan Sieg, an orthopedic surgeon at Avera St. Anthony's Hospital.

“I could not extend my leg completely out, and I couldn't bend it back 90 degrees. It has been like that for probably 10 or 11 years,” Brockman recalled of the limited movement he had prior to surgery. “I just put up with it and didn't really have what I thought was pain. However, I went for a 20-mile bike ride the day before my surgery and, boy, afterwards I found out that I did have pain.”

The robotic device, which was acquired last summer and that hospital staff have affectionately named “Arth-R” (pronounced Arthur) after holding a naming contest, helps surgeons like Dr. Sieg perform personalized joint replacement surgeries. This translates into the possibility of reduced recovery times compared to entirely manual procedures.

According to Dr. Sieg, the 3-D CT-based software that aids in planning robotic-assisted surgeries was especially helpful in this case. 

“Jerry had really bad arthritis, but a very high pain tolerance. So he waited a long time to get the knee replaced,” Dr. Sieg said. “Jerry's knee was tight on the inside when his knee was straight. But when he bent his knee, it was tight on the outside. I would never have known that with traditional evaluation methods. The robot actually showed us that information, so then we could change the way we did the surgery. It allowed us to make sure his knee has a smooth arc of motion throughout the range of movement so it feels perfectly stable whether his leg is fully extended or it is all the way bent at the knee. That's the benefit of robotics. We were able to do the procedure perfectly because we were able to hone it down to one-millimeter accuracy.”

Within a matter of weeks, Brockman was back to walking miles at a time with Lylah, his eight-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever. He no longer has to worry about stepping wrong and a sharp pain shooting up through his knee.

“I decided to time myself on two miles, and it was actually faster than I usually walk. I was impressed,” Brockman said. “And I was not having any bit of pain. That just kind of kind of amazed me. I guess on that walk I had a hiking stick, but I don't use a hiking stick anymore. My balance is back. I recently went cross-country skiing and did not have any problems. In fact, I have to admit I totally forgot that I have a new knee!”

One of the biggest changes he has noticed is better sleep. 

“Again, I didn't think I had problems with pain, but I realized that, yeah, in retrospect I had pain and it would wake me at night,” Brockman stated.

He feels lucky that the robotic-assisted orthopedic surgery was available. 

“It is impressive that a small-town hospital has something like that,” Brockman said. 

The technology was purchased with funding assistance from the St. Anthony's Hospital Foundation.

“The Foundation board decided the ortho robot would be a huge attribute to our hospital, and we have an amazing doctor in Dr. Sieg that has the knowledge to operate it,” said Foundation Board Member Russ McIntosh. “The group pushed hard to get this because we want to stay ahead of the new technology curve in our area. This is a great opportunity to bring more people to the hospital and grow in different departments.”

When Brockman retired, a family member asked him if he and his wife, Therese Sullivan, would be moving away from O'Neill to a larger city.

“I said, ‘You can't get health care like this just anywhere. We have our doctors on speed dial, and the care that I've received is just kind of unbelievable,'” Brockman responded. “I can't say too much about how grateful I am for Avera St. Anthony's Hospital. It's been an awesome experience for me, and I know other people have had good experiences here, too. So thank you to Dr. Sieg, the nurses and the physical therapists who have helped me get back on my feet. It's just been great.”

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