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Keeping the Joints Moving

Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas (SHCC) is a nationally recognized practice specializing in orthopaedics and sports medicine. The clinic’s physicians perform surgeries for back and neck injuries, arthritis and joint replacement as well as arthroscopy and complex reconstruction surgeries to treat hip, knee, shoulder, elbow, foot and ankle injuries.
SHCC surgeons are innovators in many procedures that help patients get their bodies moving again at an optimal level following sports-related injuries and other chronic musculoskeletal conditions. Michael Kissenberth, M.D., director of the SHCC Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Service, said the group’s success relies not only on mastery of the newest surgical techniques but also on a team-centered approach to care that is closely integrated with physical therapists and athletic trainers.
For example, SHCC surgeons have spent years developing protocols for postoperative rehabilitation with GHS physical therapy affiliate Proaxis Therapy. “That team approach is critical,” said Dr. Kissenberth. “It’s one of the key factors that optimizes patient outcomes and accelerates their return to full function.”
SHCC surgeons also are collaborating closely with the high school athletic trainers of GHS Certified Athletic Trainer Services. Trainers assigned to schools across Greenville County are documenting every injury sustained by high school athletes. This information is populating a database that SHCC surgeons are beginning to analyze. Their goal is to develop preventive programs to help keep young athletes healthy and on the field, Dr. Kissenberth said.
When athletes and non-athletes of all ages require surgery, SHCC physicians specialize in procedures to help patients regain mobility and strength as quickly and safely as possible.
Brian Burnikel, M.D., was the first physician in South Carolina to perform Birmingham Hip Resurfacing™, a bone-sparing alternative to total hip replacement that restores a great deal of motion to the hip joint. Dr. Burnikel also is one of the state’s pioneers in the use of the anterior approach to hip replacement. Patients lie supine instead of on their sides for the procedure, which requires only a six- to eight-centimeter incision through the intermuscular plane. The procedure leads to a more stable hip joint and less risk of dislocation.
For surgical care of the shoulder, SHCC is a leader in arthroscopic rotator cuff techniques. In fact, the clinic is involved in several research projects focused on rotator cuff repair and shoulder conditions affecting the “overhead athlete,” or athletes who repetitively raise their arms and shoulders over their heads in the course of playing their sport. SHCC also performs all of the latest ligament reconstruction techniques for knee repair, leveraging minimal access advances to reduce pain and scarring and hasten recovery time.
Dr. Kissenberth and partner Stefan Tolan, M.D., are two of only a few surgeons in the Upstate who perform “tennis elbow” repair arthroscopically. “Patients literally get back to their normal activities months earlier than they do with the traditional open procedure,” Dr. Kissenberth said.
Another factor that differentiates orthopaedic surgical care at GHS is the training infrastructure at SHCC. This summer, a Surgical Innovation Center (including a bio-skills laboratory) opened at Patewood Medical Campus. The first of its kind in the state, the center is a training, research and development hub for SHCC surgeons and GHS’ many orthopaedic surgery residents. The facility provides fertile ground for work on continuous process improvement, Dr. Kissenberth emphasized.
SHCC has an accredited fellowship in sports medicine and last fall welcomed six orthopaedic surgeons from around the country to spend the year learning new surgical techniques. These surgeons will be heavily involved in research. “Training the fellows and residents is a very enjoyable and fulfilling part of my job,” Dr. Kissenberth stated. “The teaching program keeps us on the leading edge of sports medicine and orthopaedic surgery.”
On the horizon are projects related to the design of orthopaedic implants, in conjunction with Clemson University researchers, as well as studies to evaluate the biology of soft tissue. The latter is “the next frontier” in orthopaedic surgery as physicians evaluate tissue growth at the cellular level and find ways to promote faster tissue healing after orthopaedic reconstruction, Dr. Kissenberth said. Along those lines, one of the studies under way at SHCC focuses on vascular supply to the rotator cuff following repair.