“When I was little I used to take all my toys apart to figure out why they weren’t working. Throughout my life, I’ve had an interest in, and talent for, solving problems,” says Dr. Christopher Gorczynski, an orthopedic surgeon with the Bone and Joint Center at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson; he also oversees Columbia Memorial’s surgical department. “I would also work on my cars and bicycle. I was always working on mechanical problems,” he says.
Dr. Gorczynski, who lives in southern Columbia County, grew up in Rochester. He majored in physiology at Cornell University, and completed his medical degree at the SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. Afterward, he did his residency at the NYU Langone Hospital for Joint Diseases in Manhattan, followed by a fellowship there in arthroscopic surgery and sports medicine.
His medical tool kit includes a full spectrum of both noninvasive and surgical methods. “I deal with a lot of conditions that are amenable to arthroscopic approaches [which use a miniature camera-like device to guide the procedure, requiring smaller incisions and resulting in faster healing time],” Dr. Gorczynski says, “including rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder, shoulder instability surgery, and ACL reconstruction on the knees.”
While open surgery is appropriate and necessary for some cases, he also treats many orthopedic patients without operating — instead opting for casts, braces, injections, and/or physical therapy. “We also spend a fair amount of time educating patients about how the body’s joints function, and how treatments work,” he says. “It’s important for people to have realistic expectations about probable outcomes of orthopedic procedures.
“People of all ages get orthopedic treatments,” Dr. Gorczynski says. “The oldest I’ve operated on was 103 years old, and I’ve taken care of babies.” He adds that specific injuries or conditions tend to happen at certain ages — sports injuries in youngsters, for example, and fractures in senior citizens.
Lots of patients benefit, in particular, from partial or total knee or hip replacement, Dr. Gorczynski says. These common conditions are often due to arthritis, deterioration, or injury to the joints. “One patient, who had had knee surgery about a year before, recently told me, ‘It’s amazing; I’m able to do everything with the knee that you said I’d be able to do, and sometimes I don’t even remember I ever had surgery on it.’ To me, that’s the Holy Grail of orthopedics — to be able to fix a problem and have the person go back to their normal life as if nothing had ever happened.”
“There have been a lot of advances, for instance, in joint replacements — making them last longer and feel better,” Dr. Gorczynski says. “Good replacements are no longer just a crude representation of a joint; they’re fully functional.” Recent breakthroughs include joint replacements that provide more mobility, and made from a variety of materials ranging from metal to ceramic to polyethylene; new techniques offer pinpoint repairs for conditions such as torn cartilage. “But my approach is not necessarily to use a new technique just because it’s new — not until studies show it actually does represent an advantage to patients.”
Since many orthopedic procedures are elective, says Dr. Gorczynski, the patient often has time to make an educated decision between various treatment approaches. “It’s important to feel that you and your physician are a team, so you can discuss the options, and decide what’s best for you.”