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BUSINESS PROFILE: Heartland Orthopedic Specialists

Dr. Nelson returns to the area after serving in military, practicing in Texas

By SCOTT THOMA


Dr. James H. Nelson, orthopedic surgeon with Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria and Willmar (beginning in August), serves his patients the same way he served his country in the military for over 10 years -- with dedication, compassion and pride.


“It’s an overall dedication of service,” said Dr. Nelson, who is also an Eagle Scout.

Dr. James H. Nelson explains the anatomy of a shoulder to a patient at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists. Photo by Scott Thoma

Dr. Nelson specializes in knee and hip joint replacement (including robotic-assisted joint replacement and direct anterior hip replacement), sports medicine, knee, shoulder, and hand and wrist.


“Seeing patients do well after treating them feels that I had a hand in that,” said Dr. Nelson, when asked what he likes most about being an orthopedic surgeon. “That’s the selfish part. Just seeing patients improve is the most important.”


Dr. Nelson had been practicing for eight years in Texas prior to joining Heartland Orthopedic Specialists.


“My family lived in El Paso, Texas for a time and moved back to Minnesota, so it’s nice to be closer to them again,” said Dr. Nelson.


Dr. Nelson and his wife, Patricia, have been married for 10 years and have four sons. They reside in Alexandria.


Dr. Nelson always had an interest in medicine and helping others. His mother was a nurse at Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar.


“I had meniscus surgery from a sports injury when I was in high school that (piqued) my interest in medicine, too,” he said. “It’s exactly what I now do here.”


After graduating from Willmar High School in 2001, Dr. Nelson attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, majoring in Chemistry. He then went to medical school at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, before serving his residency in a combined program with Williams Beaumont Army Medical Center and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso for five years.


Following his residency, Dr. Nelson was an orthopedic surgeon with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was stationed for three years, including a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in 2014. He was promoted to the rank of major in 2015.


Dr. Nelson then returned to El Paso and had been practicing there until his recent hire with Heartland Orthopedic Specialists.


“My mother broke her arm and went to the Heartland Orthopedic Specialists office in Willmar,” Dr. Nelson explained about his return to Minnesota. “She mentioned that her son was an orthopedic surgeon and was told there was an opening in Alexandria. I looked into it and that’s how I eventually ended up here.”


Dr. Nelson, who is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons as well as the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons, spends one day a week at the Willmar office and the other days in the Alexandria office.


Dr. Nelson has a special interest in woodworking, which is similar to what he does as an orthopedic surgeon in that correct placement allows for proper stability.


“In orthopedics, more than other surgical specialties, we often are able to see physical improvement after treatment, which I find to be encouraging to me and my patients,” Dr. Nelson said. “As a Willmar native, I am honored to serve the needs of the West Central Minnesota community.”


Dr. Nelson has special interests in carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel surgery, knee arthroscopy, knee ligament reconstructions, meniscus repair, nonoperative care of arthritis and sports injuries, robotic total hip replacement surgery, robotic total and partial knee replacement surgery, rotator cuff repair, shoulder arthroscopy, shoulder instability surgery, and surgical and nonoperative fracture care.


Heartland Orthopedic Specialists became the first facility in the region to offer robotic-arm assisted total knee and hip replacements, as well as partial knee replacements at Alomere Health, utilizing Mako’s robotic-arm assisted technology for advanced precision and customized surgical care.


The Mako robotic-arm joint replacement system, which was introduced at Alomere Health in March of 2019, is designed to provide patients with a natural-feeling new joint, using a real-time operative guidance system and preoperative plans that are completely customized to each patient’s unique anatomy. The surgeons at Heartland Orthopedic Specialist have performed over 1,700 robotic joint replacements in the last two and a half years.


“The robotic arm is very precise and can make a big difference on the recovery of a patient,” said Dr. Nelson.


There are several benefits to the Mako robotic-arm assisted joint replacements, such as:

• Implants designed for natural, normal movement.

• Less pain and quicker recovery than a traditional joint replacement.

• Personalized surgical plans based on a patient’s anatomy for longer-lasting joints.

• Reduced risk of surgical complications.

Besides being more precise, the Mako robotic-arm replacement system also reduces surgical time, blood loss and in-patient hospital stay. Patients generally stay only one night or are even discharged the same day as the surgical procedure.


Prior to surgery, surgeons get a CT scan. A 3D model of that scan is then used during surgery. The information is then fed into a computer to allow for a more precise surgery.


In a knee replacement, for example, small antennas are applied to the femur and tibia, enabling the computer to track the knee at all times and allow surgeons to move the knee during surgery.


Alomere Health and Heartland Orthopedic Specialists have a highly successful partnership for many years, with the specially-trained surgeons at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists exclusively performing joint replacements for patients in Alexandria. This partnership has been recognized as a Blue Distinction Center+ for Knee and Hip Replacement by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota. This national distinction, established by experts in the medical field, is only awarded to medical facilities that have demonstrated excellence in quality specialty care at a low cost based on selection criteria and standards to identify and evaluate quality and safety metrics.


Alomere Health has achieved the highest rating possible in hip replacement surgery, according to the U.S. News and World Report’s analysis of medical facilities, which includes data from nearly 5,000 centers across multiple clinical specialties, procedures and conditions. Ratings are based on several determining factors, such as patient safety and nurse staffing. Hospitals are ranked nationally in specialties and regionally in states and metro areas.


The following are physicians at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria:

• James E. Andrews Jr., D.O. - Therapeutic Neuromuscular Care.

• Aaron J. Balgaard, M.D. - Hip, Joint Replacement, Knee, Shoulder, Sports Medicine.

• Paul A. Dale, M.D. - Joint Replacement, Shoulder & Elbow, Hand & Wrist, Hip, Knee.

• Jonathan Harvey, M.D. - Fellowship-Trained Nonsurgical Sports Medicine.

• Timothy E. Lindley, M.D., PhD. - Back, Neck and Spine Surgery, Neurosurgery.

• Emily J.M. Monroe, M.D. - Fellow-Trained Sports Medicine Specialist, Shoulder, Elbow, Hip, and Knee.

• Eric W. Nelson, M.D. - Sports Medicine, Joint Replacement, Shoulder & Elbow, Hand & Writs, Hip, Knee.

• James H. Nelson, M.D. - Shoulder & Elbow, Hand & Wrist, Hip, Knee, Joint Replacement, Sports Medicine.

• Russell S. Sticha, D.P.M. - Foot & Ankle Specialist.

• Dennis P. Weigel, M.D. - Shoulder & Elbow, Hand & Wrist, Hip, Knee, Joint Replacement.

Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, a service of Alomere Health, is located at 111 17th Ave. East, Suite 101, Alexandria, MN. Office hours are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


For more information, call 800-762-1177, visit their website at www.heartlandorthopedics.com or “Like” Heartland Orthopedic Specialists on Facebook.


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