September 07, 2009
Like so many people, Sandy Luedke put up with knee pain long after injuring herself.
Sandy Luedke, interim principal at West Wing School in Peoria, can climb stairs again after having outpatient knee surgery.
"I was unloading bales of hay for the horses in January. I knew I hurt it. You ice it and think it will get better, but it didn't get better," said Luedke, 52, of Phoenix. She also had difficulty with stairs and couldn't bend her knee. When she took the interim principal position for 2009-2010 at West Wing School in Peoria, she knew she needed help — the school has three stories and a lot of stairs.
On May 22, she had outpatient surgery on her torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus with Stacey D. McClure, MD, at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital. She spent the summer in physical therapy to regain her strength and range of motion.
When To Seek Medical Help for Knee Pain
"Knees shouldn't hurt," said Dr. McClure, a fellowship-trained specialist in orthopedic sports medicine with The CORE Institute in the Valley. He has worked with a variety of sports teams from the University of Arizona football and hockey teams to Major League Baseball teams. He still does limited work with the Texas Rangers.
Stacey D. McClure, MD.
"If you have knee pain that has persisted for more than three months, particularly accompanied by any popping, locking, clicking, swelling or stability problems, see your primary care physician and get a referral," he said. "Most knees don't do those types of things without something being wrong."
He commonly sees patients like Luedke, who live with an injury for too long. The procedure is about an hour of outpatient surgery and the incisions are usually very small. ACL reconstruction has a 90 to 95 percent success rate. Elite athletes who have this surgery often return to nearly the same level of pre-injury performance, he said.
A successful recovery is linked to the patient's commitment to physical therapy and rehabilitation for five or six months, McClure said. Luedke planned her summer work schedule around her physical therapy, she said, so she would have the best results.
How the ACL Works
The ACL, located in the center of the knee joint, stabilizes the bones of the knee. It's important for sports activities when stopping quickly and turning.
It's possible to live without an ACL, although a feeling of the knee "giving out" and instability will persist, and the injury can lead to other problems with the knee such as a meniscus tear, cartilage damage, and, when combined with other injuries, early arthritis.
Depending on a patient's level of activity — and the combination of other problems — the reconstruction of the ACL is recommended. An ACL cannot be repaired, but a new one can be made, using either tissue from the patient's own hamstring tendons, patella tendons, or using an allograft, which is donated tissue.
Luedke used donated tissue, but all are reliable sources and techniques.
Back to School
Luedke also appreciated her care at John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital.
"I really liked how people listened to me," she said. "They took the time before I went under to show me how to use my crutches, which was extremely beneficial, because when you're coming out, you're just not with it. As I was being wheeled down to the surgery room, someone told me that they had their knees done too by Dr. McClure. That was very reassuring."
School started on Aug. 17, and now, when she looks at the stairs, Luedke doesn't think about her knee. She thinks about her students.
Learn more about knee reconstruction and other orthopedic surgeries at JCL.com/orthopedics.
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