Avera Medical Minute: Physical Therapy After Double Knee Replacement

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SIOUX FALLS, SD (KSFY)- Meet a Pierre man who had both knees replaced during the same surgery, and why he says his physical therapist made a huge difference in his recovery.

Merlyn Hilmoe enjoys activities after having knee replacement surgery

"I'm bionically wonderful!" Merlyn Hilmoe said, as he reflects on how good he felt right after surgery, while he was still receiving pain medications.

Hilmoe, of Pierre, was surprised he could get up and walk with a walker within hours of his bilateral, or double knee replacement surgery.

Surgery was just the beginning of Merlyn's journey. The team at Avera Medical Group in Pierre developed his comeback plan.

Avera physical therapist Joanne Sarringar said the work begins before surgery. "We focus on the knee, but along with that, we work on strengthening the hips, especially quad strengthening, because those are the ones that are gonna get you out of a chair, a kneeling position...on the steps," said Sarringar.

Merlyn had the same procedure, on both knees, yet they reacted differently. "Merlyn had one knee that moved really well and bent really well to start with, the other one was really tight," said Sarringar.

Although there were exercises to build strength and improve range of motion, Merlyn had several things in his favor, including a good attitude, and good upper extremity arm strength.

Avera Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Mark Hagy says every patient is treated uniquely with their rehabilitation plan. "We've already set up protocols with our physical therapist, that they have even for single knee replacements, but in the case of the bilateral, they're just dealing with the fact that that patient, may have different and more discomfort," said Hagy.

It's a new world for Merlyn, freedom from pain and the ability to do more every day, which puts a smile on his physical therapist's face.

"I wanted to help people who were hurt or injured, to help them try to get better, so when I see someone like Merlyn who has gone through that process and quite quickly, it's very rewarding," says Sarringar.

Having physical therapy right in your community is more than just convenience, Sarringar says traveling a long distance by car could put you at a higher risk of blood clots as you heal, and create more issues with joints that need frequent movement.