scroll to the top of page

Partial Knee Replacement Is Just What The Doctor Ordered

Posted on April 11, 2019 in Orthopedics

Ben Vaughn stands in front of a structure being builtThe Rolling Stones’ lyrics were right – you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes “you just might find you get what you need.”

Just ask Ben Vaughn. He wanted his meniscus replaced, but instead got what he needed: a partial knee replacement.

Vaughn, an active 50-year-old who owns a commercial construction company, had previously undergone meniscus repairs in both knees, and figured it was time for another or maybe even a meniscus replacement. The menisci are two tough, rubbery wedge-shaped pieces of knee cartilage that act as “shock absorbers” between the thighbone and shinbone. They also help stabilize the joint.

Vaughn was told he had reached his limit on meniscus repairs and was “too young” for a knee replacement. He took his medical charts to Paul Yau, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, for a second opinion.

“Am I supposed to quit living until I get old enough for them to put a new knee in there?” Vaughn asked Dr. Yau.

“Oh, no,” replied Dr. Yau. “We’ll just change the tire out and go with it.”

The “tire” Dr. Yau was referring to was Vaughn’s knee. A partial knee replacement was just what Vaughn needed.

“You can only clean out the meniscus so many times before there’s nothing left to clean out, and Ben had nothing left,” Dr. Yau said. “It’s like with tires – you can only plug a tire so many times. His ‘tire’ was flat and he had driven on it for so long that even the rim was warped. That’s why he needed a new wheel.”

“He knew what I needed even though I didn’t know what I needed,” said Vaughn. “I’m super pleased with Dr. Yau,” he added. “He’s such a blessing. He’s going to do a partial on my other knee, and I can’t wait to get it done.”

Vaughn is a Marine veteran who bikes 30 miles a day, five days a week. “For a lack of better words, I am macho about it,” he said. “I’m not letting this get me down. All but one of these guys on my crew are in their 20s and I like to test them. I like to challenge them to keep up with me.”

It’s a character trait – and lifestyle – Dr. Yau recognized in Vaughn, and the orthopedic surgeon knew what would be required to continue that lifestyle.

“That’s why the partial replacement is a great option, because you can do a partial and it doesn’t burn any bridges to doing a total replacement later on,” Dr. Yau explained.

After partial knee replacement, initial recovery generally takes a few weeks, with continued improvement over the next several months, depending on the patient’s health and rehabilitation. Just five days after his surgery, Vaughn was 35 feet in the air, installing ceiling joists on the roof of a house he was building. “I was literally on this job site the next day,” he said. “If I get to the point where I can’t keep going, that’s when I want to be done. I want to be wide open today and gone tomorrow. That’s the way I feel about this knee. This knee has given me an opportunity to be wide open – or at least halfway, until I get the other one done. I can’t wait!”

Click here to learn more about the orthopedic services offered at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.