Fortunately for patients and doctors alike, today orthopedic surgeons have some of the newest high-tech materials available for use in joint replacement surgery. According to Dr. Butler, who has performed over 4,200 joint replacements to date, "The materials used in making implants continue to improve. For example, the ceramics and metals that we use now in hip replacements wear much better than what was once available. In the past, we were doing replacements again after ten years or so because of loosening of the cement and failure of polyethylene liners. The new material wear better and last longer, which is important as our patients are living longer and staying active."
These longer-lasting implants are being put to the test with some of the sports-related injuries that bring many of Dr. Butler's patients into his office. He stressed, however, that the face of sports medicine has changed and now includes an aging baby boomer generation that has shown few signs of slowing down.
"We are performing surgery on hips, knees, elbows and shoulders on people of all ages," he said. "Years ago, people might go through their life with a bad shoulder or knee, but that's no longer the case. We are seeing patients who come in because they want to remain active and continue playing sports," he explained. In fact, a 2003 survey cited sports injuries as as the number 2 reason for a doctor's visit among Baby Boomers, right after the common cold.
In addition, the Midwest is no longer lagging behind the coasts when it comes to state-of-the-art procedures, Dr. Butler stressed. "We are doing alot of remarkable surgeries, including the "Tommy John' surgery on the elbow - named for the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher - and referred to by doctors as the Ulnar Collateral Ligament reconstruction or UCL, as well as arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs. "What I like about orthopedics is the fact that I can actually repair damaged joints for patients and they can return to the quality of life they had prior to being injured," said Dr. Butler. "If you have a patient come in to see you using a walker and after surgery, they can be out enjoying activities again, it's a very rewarding feeling," he added.