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James McMillian

Getting on Track To Enjoy Retirement with a Smart Knee

Holy Name Orthopedic - James McMillian

As an MTA conductor and motorman, James McMillian routinely had to inspect the tracks under his train. This involved walking most of the 500 miles of track in the transit system. While the tracks are smooth, the ground holding them is uneven, the electrical current on the third rail can be dangerous, and inspection takes place in the dark. Over time, the climbing and walking on uneven tracks caused wear and tear on James' body, especially on his knees.

When the pain began in his left knee, James was referred to Dr. Dennis Pfisterer, Orthopedic Administrator and Clinical Director for Sports Health Services at Holy Name. After relieving some pain with cortisone and gel injections, Dr. Pfisterer determined that knee replacement surgery was required. James decided it was time to retire and protect his body from further injury in order to enjoy the next chapter of his life.

After a few setbacks – including battling and surviving prostate cancer and undergoing hip replacement prior to addressing his knee – the time was right for James to become the first recipient of a 'smart knee' at Holy Name. James remembers fully trusting Dr. Pfisterer when he said, "Don't worry, I'm going to take care of you and you are going to be ok. I'm going to make you a bionic man."

Dr. Pfisterer introduced James to the Persona IQ® "smart knee" technology for a total knee replacement. The technology is the first implantable device that allows for remote patient monitoring and collects post-surgery data on a patient's progress. It's the latest in Holy Name's range of advanced orthopedic treatment options, including robotic and minimally-invasive technologies that give patients the quickest possible recovery.

The "smart knee" implant has sensors that measure information critical to knee replacement recovery, including range of motion, step count, walking speed, and other metrics. After the knee replacement, data is shared from the implanted smart technology to an app that can be monitored and reviewed by the physician and patient.

"The information we'll have access to now with the Persona IQ® smart knee will allow us to personalize our patient's rehabilitation program, tweak medication as necessary, and use data to assess how to improve mobility and movement," says Dr. Pfisterer.

After surgery, James started in-home physical therapy immediately, which provided him with support and assistance with navigating the stairs in his house. He has now transitioned to outpatient physical therapy, three days a week at HNH Fitness Center, a Holy Name's medically-based center in Oradell.

Physical therapist Christopher Cordero uses a variety of tools to treat patients – James included – with a variety of sports/orthopedic disorders, and works closely with their physicians to develop a highly-specific program to accomplish their rehabilitation goals. For James, one specialized technique Cordero is using is neuromuscular electrical stimulation. During this treatment, Cordero carefully places electrodes on James' quadriceps to deliver an electrical current to contract this muscle. This helps James activate his muscles while performing important activities such as walking and stair negotiation.

Cordero also assists James while on the anti-gravity treadmill, which uses forced air in a vacuum surrounding the patient's lower body to unweight them. This allows James to improve his walking pattern and speed while placing less pressure on his recovering knee. Three weeks after surgery, James was walking without assistance and driving.

"I'm not running, but I'm more mobile than I've felt in a decade," James said. "I know Dr. Pfisterer was the right person to do this surgery. My body started to break down, but I know Dr. Pfisterer was building me back up to enjoy my retirement."

Learn more about James McMillian's Orthopedic Surgeon