Gary Schaefer’s fingers were, as his coworkers said, falling off the bone. After experiencing pain, deformity and loss of function from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis for 13 years and seeing specialist after specialist, the long-time Brick resident said he believed there was no treatment.
He was stunned when he learned Dr. David Gentile, fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon at Professional Orthopaedic Associates and New Jersey Monthly’s Top Doctor the past four years, could operate on his hands to restore the shape and function, and he scheduled an appointment with him right away.
Dr. Gentile examined Gary's hands and determined that the arthritis and deformity was so far progressed that surgery was the only option. He performed the rare total knuckle arthroplasty on all eight of Gary's fingers and a knuckle fusion on both of his thumbs. Often called "rubber knuckles," total knuckle arthroplasty is not commonly performed. Dr. Gentile performed the surgery on one of Gary’s hands, and then one year later, he did the same surgery on Gary's other hand. After surgery both times, his hand was instantly straightened and, with some hand therapy, the function is now restored.
“I didn’t even know it would be possible to feel this good again,” Schaefer said. “I went from not being able to do anything with my hands—from opening a bag of chips to driving—to pain free and fully functioning.”