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Learning solutions to pain through Joint University

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Be prepared to hear the name Joint University more and more in the halls at Weiss. Surgeons in the United States performed more than 750,000 total joint replacement surgeries in 2006, and that number has risen steadily since as the country’s baby boomers age.

Joint University is the Weiss team of orthopedic surgeons, clinicians and nurses who perform knee and hip replacement surgery. They provide hyper-individualized care to patients whose joint pain has affected their quality of life. Through the surgeons’ collective experience, they have completed more than 12,000 joint replacements.

Kris Alden, M.D., has seen many of the knee and hip replacement patients who come to Weiss. “My philosophy is that getting people moving, walking, and doing things they enjoy is what life is about,” said Alden, a surgeon at Weiss and a clinical associate at the University of Chicago Medical Center, as he addressed a crowd during a Joint University seminar in August.

Molly Purkhart is a physical therapist and manager of the physical therapy program at Weiss. She calls knees and hips “our two most weight-bearing joints.” The main causes of pain in those joints: weak or tight muscles, loose or torn ligaments, inflammation, obesity, bone misalignment, and torn or frayed cartilage. “Surgeons can go in there and clean up that cartilage, or sometimes that’s when a replacement happens,” she said.

Joint University consists of 14 patient rooms—all with sweeping views of Lake Michigan—where patients recover after surgery. Before, during and after patients’ operations, the Joint University team encourages family and friend involvement—coaches who can encourage the patients’ rehabilitation at home.

“The goal is to get you back on your feet and back to the life you were used to,” said Alan Given, care coordinator for Joint University.

Given is typically the first person that patients see prior to surgery. He serves as liaison between the patient, the hospital and the doctors. “I’m your advocate, even when you’re down the road,” he said, adding that patients sometimes continue to call him with questions even 10 months after surgery.

During the seminar, a woman in the audience raised her hand and asked about quality of life after joint replacement. Joint University patients typically return home after three days, under the conditions that they can walk 2,000 feet and bend their knees to 90-degree angles. “You can basically do anything you want after surgery. Just let your symptoms be your guide,” Alden said.

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