Dr. David Rathbone

The ability to walk upright on two legs is central to the human experience. Most of us don’t think about the complexity or precise degree of coordination it takes to get from here to there unless injury or disease compromises the function of our legs, knees, feet or ankles. Fortunately, there are orthopaedic lower extremity specialists like Dr. David Rathbone that can get us back on our feet – literally - with less pain and recovery time than in years past.

Dr. Rathbone joined RiverView Health in the fall of 2014 to provide a full range of orthopaedic treatment to patients dealing with lower extremity issues - the part of the body from the hip to the toes that includes the hip, knee, and ankle joints, and the bones of the thigh, leg and foot. Treatment for joint issues is the cornerstone of his practice. A joint is where the ends of two or more bones meet. Several conditions can cause joint pain and disability and lead patients to consider joint replacement surgery, where the arthritic or damaged joint is replaced with an artificial prosthesis. In many cases, joint pain is caused by damage to the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones either from arthritis, a fracture, or another condition.

Depending on the patient’s diagnosis, non-surgical treatments are often practiced before joint replacement is considered. Different avenues of treatment, according to Dr. Rathbone, may include injections, physical therapy or weight loss. Joint replacement surgery is considered as a treatment when severe joint pain or dysfunction is not alleviated by the less-invasive or conservative treatments.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in 2011, almost 1 million total joint replacements were performed in the United States. Hip and knee replacements are the most commonly performed joint replacements in the United States and in Dr. Rathbone’s practice, but replacement surgery can be performed on other joints, as well, including the ankle, wrist, shoulder, and elbow.

Technology aides in Success

If a patient’s journey to better health does lead to surgery, Dr. Rathbone will conduct that surgery with the use of a computer-assisted navigation system. The system integrates preoperative planning and intraoperative execution information by displaying three dimensional (3D) computer images in relation to the patient’s anatomy. Computer software enables Dr. Rathbone to measure distances, angles, and volumes, and rotate and zoom to determine cutting planes and implant positioning.

Having used the navigation system for more than a decade, Dr. Rathbone credits the system for offering more precision when dealing with small incisions – like those done in the knee replacements he does at RiverView. Dr. Rathbone offers a minimally invasive knee replacement procedure that allows for an easier recovery because no muscle is cut during the surgery. The navigation system helps make this possible by helping him to better see when dealing with the small incisions.

His technique of choice when doing a hip replacement involves a double incision, also done with the help of the navigation system. While he has done several other methods, the double incision allows for a more stable hip leading to a faster recovery with minimal pain.

Recommendations for patients after hip surgery are minimal, according to Dr. Rathbone. Patients will eventually go back to feeling like they did before they had issues with their hip. Knee replacement is more complex.

Ninety percent of patients will feel better after replacement, but they will never get back to feeling the way they did before they had knee problems, according to Rathbone.

Care is Key

Patricia Grothe, Mentor, is a RiverView patient who sings the praises of Dr. Rathbone after he replaced one of her hips.

“Dr. Rathbone doesn’t just do surgery,’’ she stated. “He is good at diagnosing the problem, too. I can honestly say that thanks to his help, I do not have any pain today.’’

Norma Barrus, an LPN who has been working with Dr. Rathbone since 2002 agreed.

“He truly cares about his patients and always does what’s best for them. Each patient receives individualized care, because every patient has different needs.”

While Dr. Rathbone may see well over 20 patients a day – many with multiple, complex issues – he’s still been known to find the time to accommodate a few more patients who have various reasons for needing to be seen immediately; or to even coordinate an impromptu birthday party – cake and all – for a long-time patient in the hospital under his care on her birthday, according to Barrus.

“He doesn’t just shut off at the end of a work day. He is always thinking about his patients and how to help them. He is so very patient focused.

“Patients that know Dr. Rathbone and his Team associate us with caring not only for them, but about them. That is our key, we really care.’’

Dr. David Rathbone and Patricia Grothe visit about her hip replacement.