Sisters get knees replaced

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Dr. Mark Nikkel

Is Knee
Surgery in
Your Future?

The knee is the largest joint in the body, so it’s no surprise that having healthy knees is a must for performing most everyday activities.

The upper and lower bones of the knee are separated by two discs called menisci. The upper leg bone (femur) and the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) are connected by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. The surface of the bones inside the knee joint is covered by articular cartilage, which absorbs shock and provides a smooth, gliding surface for joint movement.

Problems with the knee develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse, or injury, and most often occur during sports or recreational activities, work-related tasks, or home projects.

When a knee has been severely damaged by arthritis or injury, it may be hard to perform simple activities, such as walking or climbing stairs, standing, sitting or even lying down.

If nonsurgical treatments like medications, physical therapy and assistive devices such as a cane don’t relieve your pain, you may want to consider total knee replacement surgery.

Customized knee replacements like the Visionaire Patient-Matched Knee, available at the Advanced Orthopedic Institute at Ingalls, offer more accurate alignment of the knee implant, which minimizes wear and tear of the new joint – a leading cause of early implant failure. What’s more, instruments tailored to your specific knee anatomy offer an implant that feels more natural, causes less pain after surgery and can lead to a faster recovery and less pain after surgery.

For more information about knee replacement surgery at the Advanced Orthopedic Institute at Ingalls, call (708) 915-PAIN (7246) or visit us at

Provided by
Ingalls Health System

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At the Advanced Orthopedic Institute at Ingalls, knee replacement surgery is a family affair!

Sisters Carol Polka, 67, of Frankfort, and Rose Marie Ricci, 63, of Manhattan, had their right knees replaced in August — just one day apart. And with a simple request, Ingalls graciously accommodated their special request for adjoining rooms.

This is the second time Polka and Ricci, who have a family history of arthritis, underwent knee replacement surgery at Ingalls. In 2010, the pair had their left knees replaced at the same time too.

After each surgery, the close-as-can-be siblings even went to physical therapy together at Ingalls Family Care Center in Flossmoor, where they are set to graduate from an eight-week rehabilitation program.

“Arthritis runs in the family,” Polka said. “It was down to bone-on-bone, and it was painful.”

Knee replacement surgery was the only option.

“We figured we might as well do it together,” Ricci added. “It’s nice to have someone with you, who understands what you’re going through.”

Orthopedic surgeon Mark Nikkel, D.O., performed Ricci’s surgery Aug. 12, and orthopedic surgeon Joseph Thometz, M.D., performed Carol’s the very next day.

Both received custom-fit knee implants using Visionaire Patient Match technology, which uses MRI and X-ray images of a patient’s knee to design and build surgical instruments tailored to a patient’s unique knee anatomy.

Though Polka and Ricci may share a family resemblance, knees are a different matter entirely, Dr. Nikkel said.

“Every person’s knee joint has subtle differences in shape and contour, but traditional surgical instruments used to place knee implants are one-size-fits-all,” Dr. Nikkel explained.

With Visionaire technology at Ingalls, the surgeon comes to the operating room with surgical instruments engineered exclusively for the patient’s knee and an implant that matches the knee’s dimensions.

“With computer-guided precision, the knee implant is then carefully put in place,” Dr. Thometz added. “That is very important because a misaligned implant can cause pain and instability, and will eventually fail. My patients have had incredible success with Visionaire.”

Exercise buddies

That’s definitely the case with Polka and Ricci. Both were discharged from Ingalls after just three days and then began physical therapy to regain their strength and range of motion.

Physical therapists at Ingalls in Flossmoor gladly accommodated the sisters’ request to rehab together. In fact, says Danielle Linn, PT, DPT, togetherness has likely helped them heal quicker.

“It’s like having an exercise buddy. They really motivate each other,” Linn said. “After knee surgery, some of the stretches and range-of-motion exercises can be painful. But Carol and Rosie use humor to keep it light and encourage each other. It’s nice to have that connection. We really enjoy them when they’re here, and we’re pleased with their progress.”

“They’ve done a great job taking care of us,” Polka added. “And the environment there is beautiful. Just walking in makes you feel good.”

Speaking of walking, both Polka and Ricci are walking on their own now, without assistive devices and plan to return to work soon.

They also plan to resume their favorite activities: walking, shopping, and traveling ... together, of course.

“We would definitely recommend Ingalls for surgery and physical therapy,” Ricci said. “We’ve been through it twice, and we wouldn’t go anywhere else.”

More information or to make a next-day appointment with an orthopedic specialist, call IngallsExpress at (708) 915-PAIN (7246).

Provided by Ingalls Health System