New knee needed

Fast recovery from knee replacement surgery was a must for Sue Vilello. As a nurse, she simply had to get back on her feet as quickly as possible.

Thanks to successful surgery, followed by her commitment to a solid rehabilitation program, she’s back on the job.

“It starts with a good surgeon and ends with good therapy,” said Vilello, 56, a Muncy Valley Hospital emergency room nurse.

Like many people who undergo such surgery, Vilello endured knee pain for a long time.

“The knee had so much arthritis,” she said. “My gait was completely off.”

Her entire leg often hurt and, for a time, she sought relief from a pain specialist.

“Dr. (Rene) Rigal gave me injections in my hips,” she said. “There was so much inflammation from the way I walked.”

But that only was a stop-gap measure.

Dr. Michael Hoffman performed the total knee replacement surgery on Sept. 11.

Therapy at Susquehanna Health Physical and Rehabilitation at River Avenue began almost immediately. Rehabilitation focused on stretching and strengthening not only the leg but her hips.

“With knee replacement surgery, you want to have range of motion restored,” she said. “You have to work on it after surgery.”

Twice a week for 90 minutes, Vilello would put herself through the sometimes grueling sessions.

At first she only could bend her leg at about a 90-degree angle but, over time, it improved.

“Every session, they would put me on my stomach and stretch me,” she said. “Yes, it’s painful. After three months, I was up to 125 degrees.”

The stretching helped prevent her from losing too much flexibility.

Vilello has done well with the therapy but conceded it probably will be a while before she gains full range of motion.

Susquehanna Health Physical and Rehabilitation at River Avenue Coordinator Eileen Bloom said strengthening the hip and knee was important.

“Generally, we start with range of motion, then we start adding in general strengthening,” she said. “She did better than most patients. She was very motivated. She was a nurse. She wanted to get back to work.”

Motivation and a positive frame of mind are keys to successful therapy, she added.

Follow-up therapy at home following formal rehabilitation is important, too.

“We have a follow-along program,” Bloom said. “Patients can come back and use equipment here even after they are done with formal therapy. They all have a home exercise program.”

Bloom said advances in medicine and a better understanding of the human anatomy certainly have improved rehabilitation efforts over the past 30 years.

Starting therapy almost immediately following surgery is among the biggest changes. One reason is because patients are discharged from hospitals much sooner.

Therapy itself, she said, is based on more “functional things” now.

“It’s not so much laying on the bed and lifting weights, although we still do that,” she said.

Therapy often includes climbing staircases or performing other physical tasks that a person faces on a daily basis.