This story is part of 417 Magazine's list of Top Doctors, as nominated by their peers, and they represent the best in medical and surgical care across 77 categories.
At age 55, Keli McDonough didn’t expect to need a knee replacement. The mom of two had always been healthy and active, which is why she was surprised to notice mobility issues around age 47. “I didn’t know what was going on,” she says. “Some days, I would feel a lot of pain walking, taking the stairs—doing everyday things. It was surprising.” McDonough’s doctors suspected a torn meniscus, but her pain kept getting worse. Then at 50, McDonough’s primary care doctor found moderate to severe arthritis in both knees. Intimidated by the idea of knee surgery, McDonough used cortisone for the pain for several years. One morning, the 55-year-old woke up with a collapsed knee. “It wasn’t even able to hold up my body weight,” she says.
It became clear that cortisone shots weren’t the answer—McDonough needed surgery. That’s when she connected with Dr. Robert Jones, a Mercy Springfield orthopedic surgeon who recommended a total knee replacement for both knees. McDonough underwent surgery on her right knee in January of 2018, and it was a grueling process. The pain and swelling were difficult to bear, and she experienced debilitating nausea and sleepiness after taking high doses of Oxycodone and Tramadol. “I’d do things like take two pills instead of one, and that went on for many weeks,” McDonough says. “My physical therapy also got a little bit delayed because I wasn’t physically feeling well enough to do some of things I was being asked to do.”
Naturally, McDonough dreaded repeating the process with her left knee. She’s not alone—knee replacements can be incredibly painful, taking a major toll on a patient’s quality of life. “People get depressed, they give up,” Jones says. “Worse, they stop doing their therapy, stop leaving the house. A small subset of people aren’t able to push back when things gets difficult after a knee replacement, and that leads to a long-term outcome that limits them for the rest of their life.” Fortunately, a new treatment is revolutionizing the procedure: iovera°.