Empowering patients to take an active role in healthcare decisions is a priority for Nathan Johnson, DO, MS, orthopedic surgeon, when discussing hip and knee joint replacement surgery as part of the orthopedic excellence program at Prairie Ridge Health in Columbus. Dr. Johnson, who has been growing his orthopedic practice in Wisconsin for the past four years, joined Prairie Ridge Health in November 2023.

“My job is to educate the patient about their ailments and provide options for treatment, so that they are actively engaged in their healthcare. While in medical school the Dean addressed our class and said that the origin of the word doctor is ‘to teach’. That stood out and I really took it to heart,” said Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson grew up in West Salem, Wisconsin, where he spent his time working in construction and on farm. He was exposed to healthcare at an early age, his mom was as a Registered Nurse and his father worked as a purchasing agent at the local hospital. “With healthcare being in the family, working with power tools growing up, and also being an athlete through high school and college, I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon, and at first sports medicine, but in residency I realized that my number one love was joint replacement.”

Robotic assisted surgery is part of Dr. Johnson’s practice. He uses Mako™ robotics for total knee replacement, total hip replacement and partial knee replacement surgeries. “I was a very big skeptic of using robotics during joint replacement surgery. I was a huge critic. I thought, if you needed a robot, you shouldn’t be doing the surgery. But, after using it for joint replacement surgeries, I was able to see the significant advantages it has with complex deformities and revisions, and even straight forward replacement cases.  I a.m. now a 100% believer in robotic technology for joint replacement surgery as I’ve seen the amazing benefits it can provide.”

Recently, Prairie Ridge Health purchased a Mako™ robot and is now one of only 12 surgery centers in the state of Wisconsin to use the Mako™ robot. Before surgery, a CT scan of the patient’s joint is taken and used to develop a 3D virtual model of the patient’s joint. This allows the surgeon to evaluate the patient’s unique anatomy, bone structure, disease severity, joint alignment and even identifies the exact location of preexisting hardware that some patient’s may have had already prior to their joint replacement surgery.

A 3D virtual model of the joint enables the surgeon to create a personalized surgery plan based on the patient’s unique anatomy.

During surgery, the surgeon guides the robotic arm, which uses AccuStop™ haptic technology, which provides vibrational feedback so they can cut less and help protect the patient’s surrounding soft tissues including ligaments and tendons.

“It is robotic ASSISTED surgery,” explained Dr. Johnson. “The robot can only do what I tell it and when I tell it. The technology allows me to plan the surgery (what size implants, where to put them, any deformities). I can make adjustments on the fly as well based on how your anatomy looks intraoperatively. Robotics allows me to do the surgery more accurately and precisely, with cuts being within a ½ a millimeter, which is incredible.”

Dr. Johnson says that he is looking forward to having a budding schedule and would like to see the Prairie Ridge Health Orthopedic Program become a destination site for elective orthopedic procedures, including joint replacements and sports medicine.

“I want to be a great resource for my patients and medical colleagues. I’ve been blown away by how the Prairie Ridge Health care team really cares about not only taking the best care possible of our patient’s, but also taking care and supporting each other as colleagues and teammates as well! Everyone takes pride in doing the best job they can possibly do every day. They truly care to help out with their patients and their colleagues, both professionally and personally. That is not universal in healthcare, but it’s something that we have here at PRH and is very special.”

While orthopedics is his career, Dr. Johnson says he is first and foremost a husband to his wife, Laura, and a father to his children, Vivian (2 yrs) & Olivia (7 mo) “Family is very important to me. That being said, I treat my patients as though they were a member of my family, giving them the respect and knowledge they deserve to make decisions.”

Dr. Johnson is seeing patients in both the Prairie Ridge Health Clinic Columbus and Beaver Dam locations. For more information call 920-623-1200 or visit PrairieRidge.Health.