As a physical therapist, Sue Bloom has helped a diverse group of patients return to their active lifestyles following their knee cartilage damage and Carticel treatment.
Sue has spent her entire career working in physical therapy. Recently, we asked her for her thoughts on what Carticel patients should expect from their knee surgery and their recovery.
Q: How long have you been a physical therapist?
A: Over twenty years.
Q: How long have you been working with Carticel patients?
A: My first Carticel patient was approximately fifteen years ago.
Q: How many Carticel patients do you see each year?
A: Four or five.
Q: How do Carticel patients differ from your other patients?
A: They're pretty much all very active and want to get back to a high level of function. Most Carticel patients are incredibly motivated.
Q: What are your Carticel patients' attitudes like when they first start working with you?
A: I think most of them are excited about the procedure. The real challenge is that many patients feel better 6 months post-op, so they’re convinced they can do anything, but patients really need to follow the rehab procedures to ensure proper healing.
Q: How long do you work with patients in your office?
A: I would say anywhere from 3 to 8 months. It really depends on the patient, the extent of their procedure and the type of insurance coverage.
Q: On average, how many times a week do you see your Carticel patients?
A: Initially, patients come in 3 times a week. After the first 8 weeks, we'll usually see them twice a week and then at around 5 or 6 months about once a week.
Q: What would you say to patients who are considering Carticel but may be concerned about the time required for rehabilitation?
A: If you can put the time in and really make an effort to follow the rehab guidelines, it is a great approach that you should definitely consider.
Q: At what point do you enter the Carticel process?
A: Usually I'll see people anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks after their procedure.
Q: How do you and the surgeon work together?
A: Communication with the surgeon is very important, because as the physical therapist, you need to know exactly how large and where the injury was. This information guides us on how aggressively or conservatively we approach therapy. There is also a lot of communication back and forth during follow-up appointments to ensure that the recovery is proceeding correctly.
Q: What does the Carticel rehabilitation involve?
A: It varies a lot depending on the size and location of the repair and what other procedures you may have had. But typically, it involves stretching and range of motion work followed by trunk-strengthening, hip-strengthening and calf-strengthening exercises.
Q: Are there goals or milestones that you set for your patients?
A: From day one, we educate patients on the steps they need to take to return to an active lifestyle. Naturally, every case is different and it also depends on their doctors’ recommendations. In general, the goal is to achieve full range of motion within 12 weeks. It typically takes about 8 to 12 weeks to be able to completely bear weight without crutches. For patients with desk jobs, they may be able to return to work in just 2 to 3 weeks. If someone’s job requires a lot of walking, standing or lifting, it will take longer. Driving depends on what leg receives treatment. If it’s the left leg, most are driving again in 2 to 3 weeks—the right leg can take up to 8 weeks. Around 18 months, most people can safely return to the physical activities they enjoyed before their injury, including all types of sports.
Q: In your opinion, what's the key to a successful outcome for Carticel rehabilitation?
A: The most important thing is to be motivated and follow the rehabilitation guidelines.
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