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Q&A with Dr. Christopher Jarrett

Southern Orthopaedic Specialists would like to welcome Christopher A. Jarrett to the team of orthopaedic physicians currently serving the Atlanta area. As the newest member of the team, Dr. Jarrett shares what influenced him to become the orthopaedic surgeon he is today.

How did you become interested in orthopaedics?
I actually went to medical school with the intention of becoming a pediatrician. However, once I went through my surgical rotations, I realized that I liked the tangible qualities that the surgical specialties had. For a given problem or diagnosis, there was a given answer or treatment. I liked that. Particularly in orthopaedics, I liked the idea that you could fix or repair that problem. In many surgical specialties if something is broken, like a gall bladder or appendix, you remove it. In orthopaedics, if it’s broken then you fix it. That concept appealed to me.
Why did you choose a fellowship in adult reconstruction?
This is an extension of the first question in that I like the idea of trying to repair something. It’s tangible and concrete. As an engineer, I still think in these terms. Adult reconstruction covers everything from the biological and chemical properties of the soft tissues and metals used in the mechanics and structural alignment of the extremities.
What do you find most satisfying about being an orthopaedic surgeon?
I enjoy spending time with older patients. It is very rewarding emotionally when a patient talks about being able to play with grandchildren or return to church without a cane or walker after a hip or knee replacement.
What disorder or injury do you see most often?
The most common complaint is anterior knee pain. Patients will often share that pain beneath the knee cap really bothers them when stair climbing or after prolonged sitting (like at the movies).
Is there any one area of the body that is harder to treat than the others?
That has to be low back pain. While we’ve made tremendous strides in orthopaedics, I’m not sure we understand exactly why some people have more problems with lumbar spine pathology than others.
What is your most frequently asked question from patients?
“When should I have my hip/knee replaced?” For arthritis, it’s never an emergency. The only reason to have the operation is for pain relief. I tell all my patients that when it’s time, they will know. The only caveat to this, is the wheelchair. If the pain is such that you are considering a wheelchair over a cane or walker, then it is time. You lose so much muscle tone with prolonged use of a wheelchair that the longer you’re in the chair, the less likely you are to walk again.
If you could give patients any advice relating to orthopaedics, what would it be?
Stay active, exercise three times a week and watch your weight. A lot of orthopaedic injuries can be prevented by remembering these.
Tell me about your most challenging, inspiring, successful, or surprising patient recovery story.
About two years ago, I saw a patient with bilateral knee arthritis. She had about 30 degrees of varus (bowlegged) bilaterally. She was the last patient of the day and she could barely walk. She’d come into the office on MARTA on her own because her only family member (daughter in law – her son was deceased) had to work. We talked for a long while about the operation. As I left the office, I saw her trying to walk the 3/4 of a mile to the train station. I stopped and picked her up and gave her a ride. A month later I replaced both of her knees, relieving her pain and correcting the deformity. Her happiest moment was when she showed up at church six weeks post op standing upright and enjoyed the surprised looks from her fellow parishioners who had only seen her hobbled over a walker. When she smiled, I smiled.
Is there anything patients can say or do that will help you better understand their needs?
I would like to see more family members at the pre op visits and during the therapy sessions in the hospital. I think it’s much more important for the family to understand what the patient is going through and the reward that is at the end.
Tell us something you would like patients to know about you.
I try to approach each patient encounter from the perspective of the patient. I believe that outcomes are better when patients are better educated about their condition and understand what is going to happen and why it is happening.

September 2008

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