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Greg Abernathy

Greg Abernathy
Procedure: Knee replacement surgery

Greg Abernathy was told he needed a new knee 15 years ago. The longtime Summit County local and owner of Lone Star Sports in Breckenridge had been playing hard on his knees for much of his life, tearing his interior meniscus while playing college football, and in later years, skiing and playing rugby. In 1993 he went in for arthroscopic surgery. His doctor at the time told him, "one day you'll be able to get a new knee, but right now there's not much we can do for you."

Major advancements in artificial knee replacement in recent years have improved the effectiveness and outcome of the surgery greatly, as well as allowing younger, more active patients to benefit from the procedure.

Even with the recent advances, Greg put off the surgery as long as he could. For years, he managed his knee pain through anti-inflammatory steroid shots including cortisone injection shots and hyaluronic acid. But his twin brother and two friends all had knee replacement surgery and were all doing great; Greg knew it was time.

When it came time to schedule the surgery, Greg knew he would go to Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. He had three other procedures done by surgeons at VSO and is a big fan of the practice. "They treat me so well. It's incredible how they've dealt with me over the years," says Greg. "I recognize the voice of every person who answers the phone; I know them all. I tell everyone I talk to about VSO."

As for which physician he would choose, Greg did his research by asking around for referrals; everyone directed him to Dr. Richard Cunningham, an expert in both partial and total knee replacements who performs more knee replacements than any other orthopaedic surgeon in Eagle or Summit counties.
Greg was able to schedule his surgery when he knew it would have the least impact on his ski and snowboard rental business. Greg's surgery took approximately two hours. Dr. Cunningham removed the damaged cartilage and bone and then positioned the new metal and plastic joint surfaces to restore the alignment and function of his knee.

Greg said his recovery went much better than he expected. "Everyone kept telling me to take it easy, but I was walking within two weeks of surgery." He was back to work quicker than he expected. "I surprised a lot of people."

12 weeks after surgery, Greg asked Dr. Cunningham if he could ski. He buckled up his boots and walked around, something he hadn't been able to do in years. The next morning, he skinned up the mountain and took a run down. "I was as happy as I could be," recalls the avid 62 year old skier. "To have had so much pain for so long, it's a miracle."

Greg still has some mobility limitations with his knee due to scar tissue. More than 90% of individuals who undergo total knee replacement experience a dramatic reduction of knee pain and a significant improvement in the ability to perform common activities of daily living. But total knee replacement will not turn patients into a super-athlete or allow them to do more than they could before they developed arthritis or before their injury. Most patients are advised to avoid some types of activity, including jogging and high-impact sports, for the rest of their life.

Nevertheless, Greg is so impressed with his outcome; he's decided to get his other knee done. "It's going to be sad when I get my other knee done because I'm going to miss all the folks at VSO," says Abernathy.