For Bryan D. Springer, MD, specializing in hip and knee orthopedics was an easy decision. It comes down to one simple answer: the patients.
Dr. Springer, orthopedic surgeon and fellowship director at OrthoCarolina Hip & Knee Center, says seeing a patient who has suffered from the debilitating pain from arthritis and reduced quality of life, then seeing how much a hip or knee replacement has improved their life, is a tremendously rewarding experience that is hard to describe. “Total hip and total knee arthroplasty are two of the most successful procedures in all of medicine,” says Dr. Springer. “Being able to improve the lives of our patients is very gratifying.”
Despite seeing such successes regularly, he says there’s always room for improvement. “I enjoy the technical challenges of surgery, the innovations and advances that are rapidly being made and being on the forefront of research to make these procedures even better.”
Dr. Springer stresses to his patients the importance of managing osteoarthritis (OA), educating them on conservative treatments that can be helpful and that allow them to live productive lives despite arthritis. The most important treatment, he says, is to stay active. “People who tend to manage their arthritis the best are those who remain active, fit and healthy. Inactivity, loss of mobility and loss of strength only worsen the condition, and then it becomes a vicious circle. The less you do, the worse you feel.”
Dr. Springer says other treatments, such as cortisone injections and medications (acetaminophen and NSAIDs), when used appropriately and judiciously, may help manage symptoms. He says surgery is an elective procedure and one he approaches cautiously with his patients. Surgery becomes an option only when delaying it could have a more negative impact, he says.
“The decision to have surgery is personal, and the decision when to have surgery should ultimately be up to the patient and their family,” he points out. “It’s different for everyone. I have found that patients do better when they decide when it’s the right time to have surgery.”
When it comes to treating OA, Dr. Springer believes there are several areas of concern. Most importantly, he’s concerned about the use of treatments that are not supported by sound, evidence-based research. He says some of these treatments are expensive but have little proven clinical efficacy.
“Patients are vulnerable and being taken advantage of financially with touted benefits that are just not proven,” he says. “We need to educate patients on what evidence-based treatments for arthritis are available.” He’s interested in research to better determine who is at risk for developing arthritis by identifying genetic markers, which would allow for early intervention and more aggressive, preventative measures. He’s also hoping to see biological treatments become available.
Dr. Springer says health care providers for people with arthritis need to work toward increasing their value to patients. He’s involved and engaged with the Arthritis Foundation as a Partner 4 Patients practice, national advocacy committee member and active volunteer.
“The Arthritis Foundation hits on all the core principles I feel are important for the work we do every day, namely patient care, education and advocacy,” says Dr. Springer. “The Foundation is the liaison that patients and health care providers can turn to for all of these. It is a trusted source of information for our patients in an era where much of what we access is misinformation.”
Read more about the Partners 4 Patients program to help your practice provide valuable information to patients.