LITTLE ROCK – A 100-year-old Denver woman was walking again the same day after total knee replacement surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) this week.
Thelma Vette said she traveled the 800 miles to UAMS because of the reputation of knee and hip replacement joint specialist Richard Evans, M.D., who had a private practice in Denver until 2005.
Evans is a pioneer in the minimally invasive technique that made it possible to even consider joint replacement surgery for someone at such an advanced age.
Vette also is healthier than the average 100-year-old, Evans said.
“Mrs. Vette is remarkable; her physical condition is more like that of a 70-year-old,” Evans said. “The only thing that kept her from walking before surgery was a badly deformed knee caused by arthritis.”
However, Evans consulted with Vette’s physicians in Denver before deciding to perform the surgery on her right knee.
“I wasn’t comfortable until I had talked with her cardiologist and general practitioner to make sure she was healthy enough to undergo surgery,” Evans said.
Immediately following the surgery Evans asked Vette, “How do you feel?”
“With my fingers,” she quipped.
Two days later, Vette, mother of eight and a former school teacher and Denver PTA president also joked with her physical therapist. When the therapist asked her to bend her new knee, Vette bent the other one, saying with a chuckle, “I was hoping to trick you.”
Vette also said she was an avid golfer until about 10 years ago.
Despite unusually good health, her age made her a high-risk surgery candidate that most surgeons would never accept. Evans said he had never attempted a total joint replacement on someone as elderly as Vette and this has rarely, if ever, been done before.
Evans has been at the forefront of a movement in recent years toward minimally invasive joint replacement, having helped develop one of the less invasive techniques.
“Engineers have made better artificial joints, and we’re continuing to improve the way we’re putting them in, so the recovery time for patients is phenomenal,” he said.
UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 9,300 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit www.uams.edu.