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Even two bad knees couldn’t break his stride

Milton is back to work as a professor and researcher after a double knee replacement.

Older man wearing a blue collared shirt and tie smiles in his home.
Milton is feeling back to normal after a successful robotic double knee replacement.

At 75 years old, Milton Schiffenbauer is nowhere close to slowing down. The busy biology professor has classes to teach and a research laboratory to run. He doesn’t like to be out of his office for too long. So, when he found out that he was going to need not one, but two knee replacements, he was concerned about what the recovery might be like.

“You hear things about how tough it can be—it can be a real challenge to get back up on your feet,” he said.

Luckily, the Center for Joint Preservation and Reconstruction at Lenox Hill Orthopedics offers robotic joint replacement procedures. Matthew Hepinstall, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, said hip and knee replacements are now very routine procedures that help thousands of people retain their independence and mobility each year. Yet, for some patients, traditional manual surgery for joint replacements can lead to long, arduous recoveries, and do not provide the expected excellent long-term result. Robotic joint replacement technology offers patients a more precise surgical option—improving outcomes and reducing recovery time.

“Robotic surgery really is about making these surgeries more patient-specific,” Dr. Hepinstall said. “And that allows us to be more precise and accurate when fitting the new joint, putting in an implant that will restore that patient’s anatomy the best.”

Milton’s procedure began with a CT scan of his bone at the site of the joint that was being replaced. This allowed for a creation of a 3D computer model of the bone and joint. With that model in place, Dr. Hepinstall was able to make better informed clinical decisions about the size of the joint replacement implant—and how it should best be fitted to Milton’s bone.

“Before robotics, we had to make educated guesses about what size to use and what the mechanical consequences might be if we sized up or down,” he said. “Now, with this system, we can move the part around in three dimensions and understand where to best place it.”

Man in his 70s who had double knee replacement surgery opening a car door
After minimally invasive knee replacement surgery, Milton was eager to return to work.

Milton was excited about his surgery, and couldn’t wait to get back on his feet teaching again. He had his first knee replaced in April 2018. Because recovery is quicker with minimally invasive surgery, he returned home in just two days after the procedure—even managing to climb the steps right away. Within two weeks, he felt strong and secure with the new knee.

“I went to physical therapy and really had no problems,” Milton said. “There was very little pain and my leg felt very stable.”

That stability is very important when you are looking at a second knee replacement. Dr. Hepinstall explained that if the knee doesn’t feel strong and secure on one leg, recovery from a second procedure can be much more difficult.

“The better the ligaments of the knee are balanced, the more natural it feels—you need that good leg to stand on, so to speak,” he said. “You’ve probably heard, ‘Oh, you need to get used to your new knee.’ With robotic precision, it’s much more likely we can restore the anatomy, better matching the knee you had before arthritis and getting you back on your feet that much sooner.”

As for Milton, his replacements were a perfect match—and he was thrilled with the outcome. He had the same recovery and success as he did with his first knee replacement—and, once again, the prescribed physical therapy came easily.

“You know they say you can’t go back to work for at least six weeks after knee surgery—but I was back within two,” Milton said. “I really can’t say enough good things about the care I received. Dr. Hepinstall is an amazing surgeon—and these new robotic techniques are excellent. They really made all the difference for an easy recovery.”