My Left Knee – Thru the Surgery

Posted Posted by DetectiveEstes in Detective Estes' Corner     Comments No comments

This is a short story about the partial replacement of my left knee. I thought if someone were considering this type of surgery, they could read this and get an idea of how they would feel following surgery based on how I feel.

After having arthritic pain in my left knee for years, by September, 2012, it was evident that I had a lot of pain that was not going to go away, in both knees, not just the left one. In November I went to see Dr. Kevin Fricka of the Anderson Clinic Orthopedic Group. See their website at This group of orthopedic surgeons operates out of Anderson Clinic and Mt. Vernon Hospital. Anderson Clinic is located at 2400 Army Navy Dr. in Arlington, Virginia and Mt. Vernon Hospital is at 2501 Parkers Lane, Alexandria, Virginia. I chose Dr. Fricka specifically because he works with another doctor who specializes in anesthesia so the patient feels less pain following surgery. This is Dr. Nitin Goyal. I am one of those who really don’t like pain. No pain or less pain is far better than any pain, in my opinion. I had read about Dr. Goyal in one of the newsletters from the group.

I made an appointment to see Dr. Fricka and went to see him. Dr. Fricka is, I believe, a typical orthopedic surgeon. He is tall, about 6’5″; big, probably around 250 pounds, and muscular. I read once that orthopedic surgeons have to be muscular because they have to lift their patient’s dead weight limbs and hold them in place during surgery. Dr. Fricka examined my knees and advised that a full knee replacement would not be necessary on either knee. I did have arthritis in the left one, and wear in the right, but not to the extent of a complete replacement. Dr. Fricka explained the procedure to me along with the procedure of the anesthesia.

There would be a small amount of light anesthesia. After I was relaxed then there would be an insertion of anesthesia similar to an epidural in my back which would numb my lower extremities. The surgery would then take place. This epidural was of great upset to me. I was very worried about someone sticking a needle in my spine! How much pain would that be? I figured a lot and I was really upset about it. I discussed this with Dr. Fricka. He was adamant about this method of anesthesia prior to surgery. His reasoning was the epidural would numb my legs only and the insertion would also let the doctors quickly know about any respiratory or heart issues immediately. I figured I’d better look into this so I wouldn’t be full of anxiety pressures.

The surgery would only be done on the part of my knee that is painful. The knee was x-rayed for current wear & tear. Dr. Fricka pointed out the parts to me he would be doing surgery on and that these were the parts rubbing together without much, or in a couple places, any cartilage between the bones. Dr. Fricka said this part only would be ground down somewhat, and a piece of material replaced the ground down part. The other side would also be ground and another piece of material would be wedged into the bone. Dr. Fricka had an x-ray of a finished product and showed it to me. On seeing the x-ray, the work being done was obvious.

Dr. Fricka said the recovery was about half the time of a full knee replacement. This is due to the method used. In full knee replacements, tendons and ligaments have to be cut then repaired and this is what a lot of the healing is. The surgery was set for January 21, 2013 and I was to be at the hospital at 6:30AM to be the first patient at 8:30.

Within 30 days of the surgery I had to have a physical. Part of the physical was a heart EKG, and also a blood test to make sure I had enough clotting in my blood. 10 days prior to the surgery I had to stop taking any blood thinning medicine such as Ibuprofen and aspirin. Five days prior to the surgery I had to stop any other medication that was not life preventative.

I talked to several women I have great respect for on the epidural; my wife, daughter in law who just had a baby, and my doctor. My daughter in law advised me not to worry about it; I may not even feel the prick of the needle. My doctor commented it was a very short needle and I’d probably not remember it. My wife said it wasn’t anything to worry about. I thought if all of these people so close to me felt the same way, I could just put my bother aside until there was something worth being bothered about.

On January 21, I arrived at Mt. Vernon Hospital at a cold 6:15AM. My wife and daughter came along too, for driving me on the return and for personal assistance. I entered the Hospital at the Yellow, Out-Patient Unit. Upon entry I left my name at the front desk. Shortly thereafter I was escorted into the registration office and my complete ID and health insurance information was collected. Following that I was then escorted into a nurse’s office. My blood pressure and heart rate were collected and an IV needle was inserted into the back of my hand for future use. Next, the entering nurse and I went to my room for the surgery. The IV needle in my hand was now used to set the IV in my hand.

The anesthesiologist, a woman doctor, entered my little space and we discussed known allergies I have to certain medication. The anesthesiologist was then ready to go. I wasn’t. I had to go to the bathroom. Sometimes nerves just take over in the bladder area. I quickly eliminated the very minor amount of liquid and headed on back to my room. Upon entry I found my anesthesiologist in a cell phone conversation with the surgeon, apologizing to him that ‘he had to use the bathroom’, meaning me!

At about 0815 the anesthesiologist then inserted the relaxation stuff in my IV and within what felt like about 3 seconds I was relaxed! The anesthesiologist then inserted my epidural, and loosed whatever was in it, into me. For those that are waiting for how it felt, I can’t tell you. I literally cannot remember when the epidural was inserted, what it felt like, and what my legs felt like after that. I have forgotten all except the first relaxation stuff in my IV. Pretty amazing. The anesthesiologist did comment that I may have headaches and they would deal with that later. To date I’ve had no headaches.

Sometime later, I noted it was 1100 when I woke up. About a minute after that, I went back to sleep. Next time I woke up was about 1230 in the afternoon. My wife was invited into the cubicle. We talked a bit, and I got light headed. The nurses treated me and my wife left for a while. At about 2PM I awoke again. I stayed awake, but was still somewhat light headed until about 4ish. And then it was like a light clicked on then and I was fine. After a few more minutes of checking my blood pressure, I was released. I wasn’t in any pain at all. I guess those medications stay with you for long times.

This is what the photo of a partial knee surgery looks like. Click on the thumbnail to see an expanded photo.

xray of surgery

xray of surgery

This was the surgery. The next parts are of my knee recovery.

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About Detective Estes

Detective EstesMr. Estes has lived in the DC Metropolitan area for most of his life. His father’s influence and expertise in firearms resulted in Mr. Estes beginning to rifle shoot at a young age and eventually shooting on the Washington-Lee High School rifle team in Arlington, VA.

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