Think of a "fractured vertebra" or "knee replacement surgery" and many think of being bedridden for months with a lot of pain. However, new orthopedic procedures performed by Dr. Felix Ungacta, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, can get patients up and back to normal routines — within reason — in only a matter of days. What's more, these surgeries can be performed at HSHS St. Joseph's Hospital so patients can remain close to home.
Performed under local or general anesthesia, balloon kyphoplasty involves placing orthopedic balloons to gently elevate the bone fragments to return them to the correct position. Before the procedure, the doctor orders diagnostic studies, such as an X-ray or MRI, to determine the fracture's exact location. Balloon kyphoplasty allows patients to return to their daily activities at home within two to three days and restores patient's height as the vertebra is straightened.
Dr. Ungacta has recently started performing a brand new procedure — computer-assisted knee surgery — which helps align the patient's bones and replacement implants with a degree of accuracy not possible with the naked eye. Dr. Ungacta uses the MRI's detailed information to operate with smaller incisions and greater precision.
An exclusive to the Metro East area, this procedure is now available at St. Joseph's in Highland. "My patients can have a knee replacement that is minimally invasive," Dr. Ungacta said. "That means the potential for faster recovery, with less bleeding and less pain. This also means getting them back on their feet more quickly, which is the ultimate goal."
Just as GPS systems are now being used to provide direction with precision, speed and accuracy not attainable with a map and compass, the new computer-assisted orthopedic surgery will offer visual mapping that helps doctors make crucial decisions before and throughout the knee replacement operation.