Dr. Levine Saves a Patient’s Leg After a Failed Knee Replacement

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Barbara Zage, 60, of Chicago started out like anybody with a little knee pain.

“I had nagging pain for a couple of years so I tried lots of things,” she explains. “My doctor prescribed injections, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, but nothing was successful.  Eventually, I couldn’t walk for very long stretches because it was so painful.”

When her daughter-in-law became pregnant with Barbara’s first grandchild, she decided that it was time to pursue a knee replacement so that she could fully help with the new baby.

Barbara researched physicians and hospitals, finally making a selection for a total knee replacement. The surgery seemed to go well. However, after only a few weeks, her condition deteriorated quickly.

“I had a sharp pain in my knee and it became very swollen,” she says.  “Several times it had to be drained and the physician discovered blood in the joint. Ultimately, he repaired a synovial tear that had developed.”

The swelling continued to worsen.  

“One day I bent my knee, it burst open and blood and fluid shot out of it,” she explains. “I had a fever and clearly a raging infection in my knee.”

Over the next 14 months, her physician performed seven different surgeries to remove her artificial knee, clean it out, insert a spacer and replace the knee joint.  She remained on an IV at home. She developed reactions to the antibiotics, pancreatitis and blood clots in her lung, resulting in more hospital stays.

“I was scared, depressed and wondered if this was ever going to end,” Barbara says. “Finally, when I was warned that I might lose my leg, I said ‘I’m out of here’ and sought out another physician’s help.”

She was referred to Dr. Brett Levine, a total joint replacement expert specializing in complex cases at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. She transferred to Rush University Medical Center where she was told by everyone she met that ‘she was in the right place’ for her complicated condition. 

“I felt the positive energy right away and sensed confidence in the whole staff,” she says.

Dr. Levine prepared her mentally and physically for three more necessary surgeries and assured her that he would save her knee and leg.  During this process, with the help of the Infectious Disease team at Rush, he found the source of the infection, treated it and also discovered that she had limited blood supply to the skin around her knee. He partnered with Rush University Medical Center plastic surgeon Dr. Gordon Derman who grafted a muscle from her leg to cover the knee which allowed for proper blood flow.  

She followed all the rehabilitation protocols recommended by Dr. Levine and soon was walking and feeling well again.

Today, one year later, Barbara is walking well, swimming, participating in water aerobics and helping to care for two grandchildren.

“Saying that I am eternally grateful to Dr. Levine is an understatement.” 

If you would like to discuss your knee condition with Dr. Brett Levine, call 877-MD-BONES to schedule an appointment.