Hilo surgeon rocks the joints — hips and knees


Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jay Boughanem is currently celebrating his one-year anniversary on the job in Hilo. During that time, he’s had especially encouraging results from a relatively new type of joint replacement surgery that wasn’t available on the island until his arrival, he said.

Known as computer-navigated total joint replacement, the procedure is a modern improvement upon a time-tested surgery that has been shown to dramatically increase the quality of life for patients suffering from severe arthritis pain. Especially prevalent in knees and hips, arthritis pain can be exacerbated or brought on by health factors like obesity, which is a particularly common problem here on the Big Island.

“Arthritis pain can be very debilitating. Some people are bedridden,” Boughanem said in his office on Friday afternoon. “We want to help our patients to go back to an active lifestyle.”

While joint replacement surgeries are not new, Boughanem has been putting into practice a system that has only been in use for five to 10 years. It utilizes sensors and a computer navigation system to help align a knee or hip replacement as it is being attached to a patient’s bone.

“It helps to line the prosthetic up with the bone to make a more perfect fit. … It’s kind of like having your tires aligned properly on your car,” he said. “If one side is not aligned properly, the tire can wear down much quicker. The same can happen with a joint replacement.”

Nearly 100 percent of typical knee replacements have been shown to have lifespans of at least 10 years — but many doctors believe that using the computer navigation system in the surgical process can perhaps double that lifespan, he said. And any time further surgery or replacements can be avoided, that is a good thing for a patient.

Additionally, Boughanem said, by now offering the procedure on island, patients can avoid the costs and difficulties associated with flying to Oahu or the mainland for the surgery.

Even so, Kona resident Vicki Penney-Rohner says that she was initially crushed when she visited Boughanem and was told that she needed a hip replacement.

“I’d been in pain for almost four years. At times, I could barely walk. … My doctor, Craig Shikuma, diagnosed me with arthritis and bone spurs. I was hoping I just could have the joint cleaned out. But when I saw Dr. Boughanem, he said he couldn’t help me with that. He said, ‘You need a hip replacement.’ At the time, I was only 57, and it was pretty devastating news.”

But almost a year later, Penney-Rohner calls the decision to authorize the surgery “the best experience I’ve ever had in my life.”

The artist and former co-owner of Koehnen’s Interiors in Kailua-Kona said that following the surgery, she was up and using a single crutch within three weeks — a result she attributes to Boughanem’s meticulous nature and the fact that she was in good shape before the procedure.

“I amazed the staff. … I’m not sure everybody could expect that kind of recovery,” she said.

The result of the replacement on her own lifestyle has been nothing short of a gift, she added.

“Before, it was very painful for me to walk. Now, I have no pain. Now that I’ve had the surgery, I have an absolutely new life,” Penney-Rohner said.

Diana Aki, 70, agrees. For going on 40 years, she had struggled with pain in her knees. Ultimately, she said, it led to her retiring from her job working with the Department of Education.

“I just couldn’t keep working, because of the pain,” she said.

When she first met with Boughanem, she thought she would have to fly to Honolulu for the surgery, and when he told her he could do the replacement here, she was skeptical.

“But after he talked to me and told me how it would work, I just knew I could trust him. I put my full trust in him, and he didn’t let me down.”

The Wainaku resident says that the replacement has afforded her a great deal more movement, and the intense pain she had lived with for most of her life is gone.

“He came through for me,” she said.

And that, Boughanem said, is exactly why he came to Hilo.

“It’s why I moved here from Boston,” he said.

Having performed his residency at Northwestern University and his orthopedic surgery fellowship at Harvard University, Boughanem said he was ready to bring the skills he’d refined to the Big Island, where he knows he can help make a difference for a population that is relatively cut off from a variety of options.

“We’ve had amazing results with this,” he said of the replacement surgery, “and I think it’s a really good thing for the people here. … And it’s great for me. It’s what keeps you coming back every day. If you feel like you’re making a difference.”

Boughanem’s practice, Hilo Bone & Joint, is located at 73 Puuhonu Place off of Komohana Street. For more information, call 932-4235, or email orthohilo@gmail.com.