Arizona Ace Undergoes Successful Arthroscopic Procedure
May 06, 2003
By Randall Conrad, Knee1 Staff
Star pitcher Randy Johnson felt pain in his right knee after a doubleheader one April Sunday night in which he had pitched six strenuous innings, giving the Arizona Diamondbacks a 7-3 win over the New York Mets.
Back in Arizona, the pain persisted, convincing the Diamondbacks to treat the four-time Cy Young Award winner right away, proactively.
"He had a very good outing in New York, but after the flight back and the following day, his knee seemed to swell up again," said Dr. Michael Lee, the Diamondbacks' physician. "The MRI showed a lot of fluid and small cartilage pieces in the knee."
As soon as Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly decided for immediate surgery, the critical question was how long Johnson would be sidelined.
Complicating the decision was the condition of another ace pitcher, Curt Schilling, just returning after recovering from an appendectomy. Together the two players reached an amazing 90-24 in their two previous seasons. This year they are 2-4 in eight starts, with a combined ERA already topping 5.0.
Fortunately, the prognosis is very good, thanks to an innovative technique known as knee arthroscopy that has revolutionized orthopedic surgery. In this procedure, a fiberoptic mini-camera allowing the surgeon a direct view of the joint structures is inserted through one small incision near the knee, while surgical micro-instruments are inserted through other incisions. Small incisions called portals sometimes aid in draining fluid from the affected area.
The technique enabled Dr. Lee's team to remove the cartilage fragments and fluid from Johnson's knee in a brief procedure. Since arthroscopy is far less invasive than conventional surgery, the patient heals and recovers in less time. If his rehabilitation goes routinely, Johnson will be away from the game for no more tha three to six weeks.
The proactive decision to go with knee arthroscopy was a wise choice, according to Paul Lessard, the Diamondbacks' head athletic trainer. "I'm guessing Randy's got pretty high pain tolerance if you saw the things they took out of his knee today," Lessard remarked.