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New Knees, New Life

Innovative Joint Replacement Center helps man return to what he loves

When grocery shopping with his wife, Maureen, Dean Eichele used to stay in the pickup if he knew it would be a lengthy excursion.

Knee troubles made the pain nearly unbearable for the 60-year-old Bismarck man if he remained standing for too long, and, after a prolonged trip inside, his knees would stiffen up, making it hard to get back into the pickup.

Those troubles have since passed after Eichele had total knee replacement surgery in both knees at Sanford Health in Bismarck (Link to He also was one of the first patients to benefit from the Sanford Joint Replacement Center, an evidence-based, best-practice program focused on patients and their families.

Matthew Carpenter, MD orthopedic surgeon, replaced Eichele’s left knee June 24 and followed up by doing the same to his right knee Aug. 26.

“The left knee felt so much better I knew if the other one felt half that good, I’d be thrilled,” Eichele said of his decision to have both procedures only two months apart.

For the second operation, Eichele participated in the Joint Replacement Center program, which opened Aug. 26 at Sanford in Bismarck, making it the first of its kind in the region.

The Joint Replacement Center provides care for patients who have hip or knee replacements, with the goal of having quicker recovery and decreased length of stay for the patients. While staying at the Joint Replacement Center, patients have private rooms tailored to meet the needs of joint replacement patients, and the center follows a wellness model, meaning the patients wear normal clothes instead of hospital gowns and are as active as possible during their stay. As part of that, the floor features a dedicated area for group therapy. Patients also receive a daily newsletter and goal sheets that help guide them through each step of recovery. All of the nursing staff on the floor have specialized training in total hip and knee replacements. As part of the program, patients designate a coach, who attend therapy sessions and ensure the patients have the help they need once they go home.

“As a surgeon, my goal is to have my patients get back to their normal routine as quickly as possible, while also making a complete recovery with no complications,” Dr. Carpenter said. “The Joint Replacement Center helps us achieve these goals, and it’s a great addition for our patients.”

Before opening the Joint Replacement Center, Sanford Medical Center already was a Blue Distinction Center for knee and hip replacements with quality and value designations. The Joint Replacement Center further helps the medical center serve its patients and help them in their recovery. Before opening the center, patients who had knee replacements stayed in the hospital an average of 3.48 days before returning home. Now, that number has been reduced to 2.2 days.

For Eichele, participating in therapy with a group of patients who just had similar procedures pushed him along in his recovery.

“The group therapy was really nice,” he said. “It’s neat when you do it together and see everyone else. You see everyone else do it, and you want to do a little better – put every effort into doing well more than when you do it alone.”

As part of the program, a registered nurse serves as a dedicated orthopedic nurse navigator. The nurse navigator provides preoperative education for patients and their coaches, guides patients through their joint replacement journeys and follows up with patients after discharge to make sure they are on their road to recovery.

“Our goal is to have patients spend a few days with us, so they can spend the rest of their lives doing what they love,” said Debbie Bachmeier, registered nurse and the program’s orthopedic nurse navigator.

That was exactly the experience Eichele had. For his first procedure – before the Joint Replacement Center – he spent four days in the hospital. For the second, that stay was cut down to two.

Now, Eichele walks around with no limitations, and he rides a recumbent bicycle for 20 to 30 minutes a day.

“It was nice not having a gown on all the time,” he said of the Joint Replacement Center. “It seemed like it sped things up a little bit. You do feel like you’re more at home. I enjoyed it.”

Posted Date: March 2014