August 15, 2016

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center orthopedic surgeon part of team that develops new joint restoration product

Bernard Stulberg, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, was part of a team of six revision experts that helped develop a new joint restoration product used for revision knee replacement surgery. The new product addresses a growing need as the average age of patients having knee replacement surgeries decreases, which increases the number of patients who will eventually need revision knee replacement surgery as the average knee lasts less than 20 years.

A recent post on the St. Vincent Charity blog highlighted the work Dr. Stulberg did in developing the product and becoming the first surgeon to use the new system.

The full text of the blog post appears below.

St. Vincent Charity orthopedic surgeon first to use new system for revision knee replacement surgery

Dr. Bernard Stulberg, orthopedic surgeon at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center has seen a remarkable decrease in the average age of patients needing knee replacement surgeries. As one of the nation’s leading surgeons of joint replacement, he was being highly sought after for his expertise in revision surgeries for failed joint replacements.

“We now see much younger patients opting for surgery. Given that the average knee lasts 15 to 20 years, we know we are going to continue to see an increase in the need for revisions,” Dr. Stulberg said. “Given the challenges of revision surgeries, we need devices that are more predictable for the surgeon and bring better results to the patient.”

The statistics are overwhelming. The Arthritis Foundation reports on a study presented at the 2014 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found a 188 percent increase over the last 10 years in knee replacement surgeries among 45 to 64 year olds. During this same time, the number of revision surgeries increased by more than 130 percent.

Faced with the growing need for surgeons to be able to customize to a patient's individual needs, that often a surgeon cannot determine until they are in the operating room, a new joint restorate product was needed, and Dr. Stulberg was part of the team that did just that.

A premier manufacturer of joint restoration products, Exactech®, along with some of the world’s leading revision surgeons designed a new system to provide surgeons the ability to adapt to an individual patient’s needs in real-time, in the operating room. 

Surgeons can actually build the knee implant in the operating room to adjust for bone loss, ensure the knee is lined up properly and that the ligaments are in the right balance to provide long-term stability. The system includes ergonomically designed instrumentation designed to improve the overall range of motion after surgery.

“With a revision, you are not dealing with normal bone and ligament structure. As a result, you do not know what you will find until you get in there,” Dr. Stulberg said. “There are judgments that need to be made during surgery that you cannot anticipate ahead of time.”

Last fall, Dr. Stulberg became the first surgeon to use this new system for his patient, Cleveland resident Linda Harvey. This marked Linda’s third knee replacement after a fall which left her unable to navigate her stairs or walk unassisted.

After finishing rehab, Linda is now walking without a cane for the first time since she can remember. 

“It was a blessing that I was referred to Dr. Stulberg,” Linda said. “I told him it was my wish to be able to walk without a cane and get up and down my stairs without any problem. My wish came true.”

Dr. Stulberg said he was more than pleased with Linda’s outcome, particularly with Linda’s excellent early stability which allowed her to be released to her home, just two days after surgery.

“The instruments were intuitive, comfortable to use and allowed for a straightforward and accurate approach to assessing bone loss. It enabled me to re-establish proper implant position, alignment and stability,” Dr. Stulberg said. “To be involved in the development of this system was a satisfying experience because I know it will assist many surgeons address the myriad of problems encountered in revision total knee replacement.”

For now, Dr. Stulberg, and the team of five other revision experts in the development group are the only surgeons who are able to use this new system until it is released nationwide this fall. The system will include ground-breaking technology utilizing computers in the operating room to help navigate surgery.

St. Vincent Charity Medical Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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