Risky Surgery Puts the Bend Back in Knees

FRESNO, Calif.

Now, new and better implants and surgeries have taken the place of many of these drastic procedures. But for those who had the fusion years ago, there may be a way to un-do the once-permanent procedure, but it's a risky surgery. Anthony Logan loves the rush. "Being on a motorcycle is like a freedom that you can't describe," Logan told Ivanhoe. He's back on his bike 10 years after a bad crash.

"My knee actually got caught between two motorcycles," Logan explained. Seventeen surgeries and a raging staph infection followed. At the time, doctors told him fuse it or lose it. He had his knee fused, a permanent procedure where two bones become one, and the knee doesn't bend. "It's kind of like an appendage that works as a peg leg, and is there, so you can ambulate, but pretty much for everything else, it's always in the way," Henry Finn, MD Medical Director at the U of C Bone and Joint Replacement Center at Weiss Chicago, IL, said.

Dr. Finn performs a risky surgery to un-fuse knees.

"They have to be willing and accept the risk of loss of their limb and be so desperate not to keep the fusion that they would accept that," Dr. Finn explained.

He cuts through the fused bone and implants a mechanical joint. The stems that anchor it extend almost from the hip to the ankle. The saw comes dangerously close to the major artery and nerve.

Dr. Finn has done 50 operations. None of his patients have lost their leg. There was one case of infection.

Dr. Finn discusses the risks with patients for at least a year before surgery. Annette Czajkowski is considering it. She's lived with a fused knee for 30 years. Simply sitting is a chore.

"It's even hindered working. People don't want to hire you," Czajkowski explained.

Considering surgery to un-fuse knees, for Logan, the risk paid off. He didn't just do it for himself. He did it for these little guys.

This dad can now get down on their level.

"They're my pride and joy," Logan exclaimed.

Knee fusions are still occasionally done in younger patients when an implant isn't an option because it will wear out too soon. Dr. Finn has a vascular surgeon standing by in case something goes wrong during the procedure. Dr. Finn created and designed the mechanical knee that he implants in his patients.

If you would like more information, please contact:
Catherine Gianaro
Weiss Memorial Hospital
Chicago, IL
(773) 564-7285

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