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New knee has La Crosse man dancing for joy

After more than 50 years of square dancing, 80-year-old Dean Peterson's painful right knee had slowed him down, but he was not ready to hang up his dance shoes. So in 2009, Gundersen orthopedic surgeon Joseph Vandenberg, MD, gave Dean a new knee and a life free from constant pain.

Dean had been a production superintendent at Trane for many years. This meant a lot of time on his feet. Dean is also a classic car enthusiast. He and his prized single-owner 1974 Ford Grand Torino Elite often went to car club swap meets covering several acres. By the 1980s wear and tear on his knee from his job and hobbies was causing discomfort.

By 1995 the pain was bad enough that he went to see Gundersen orthopedic surgeon Joseph Vandenberg, MD. "Because artificial joints wear out, we try to postpone joint replacement surgery, especially in those with mild to moderate conditions," Dr. Vandenberg explains. "We prefer to start with more conservative therapies such as anti-inflammatory and pain medications, physical therapy, a brace or other orthotics."

Such was the case for Dean. "Dr. Vandenberg suggested cortisone shots which offered some relief. But last year, the pain made it more difficult to get around, so I went to see him again. He found considerable calcium build-up in the joint which was causing my knee to point in and toes to point out. It not only caused a lot of pain, it also affected my gait," Dean recalls.

"To alleviate pain and improve function, we can perform a total or partial joint replacement. The type of surgery we do is based on several factors including age, joint damage, pain level, mobility issues, current health and lifestyle," says Dr. Vandenberg.

Dean's problem was severe enough that Dr. Vandenberg recommended a total knee replacement. "The surgery involves removing and replacing the damaged surfaces of the knee joint. In addition, a plastic spacer replaces the worn cartilage and provides a cushion and glide for the new artificial joint," Dr. Vandenberg explains.

"I had all the confidence in Dr. Vandenberg," Dean says, but earlier heart surgery means an added element of risk with any surgery. Having his knee surgery at Gundersen in La Crosse, with heart specialists who can be quickly mobilized if needed, gave Dean added peace of mind.

"I'm so happy I had the surgery. Both legs are straight, and there is no more pain," Dean will tell you…that is, if you can find him. Best look for him on the dance floor or wandering among the old cars at a swap meet. To learn more about joint replacement surgery, talk with your primary care provider or contact Gundersen Orthopedics.

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