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Getting you ‘back in the game’

Heartland Orthopedic Specialists is first in the area to offer robotic-arm assisted joint replacements

By Scott Thoma

Dr. Eric Nelson, of Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria and Willmar, is passionate about alleviating his patients’ pain; not by just scheduling a surgical procedure, but by finding the cause of the pain.

Dr. Eric Nelson of Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria. Contributed photo

Dr. Nelson specializes in sports medicine, shoulder and elbow, hand and wrist, hip, knee and joint replacement, including robotic-assisted joint replacement. He has dealt with a myriad of orthopedic injuries from athletes to farmers of all ages.

“My goal is to get you back in the game or back to work as quickly and safely as possible,” Dr. Nelson emphasized. “I tell the patient what the odds are of a certain option working for them. I want patients to know what they can expect. In a lot of cases, we can avoid surgery and treat the injury with physical therapy or some other minimally invasive treatment method.”

Dr. Nelson likened the process of finding the type of care each patient requires to a food buffet in which you try things one at a time before you can complete the meal.

“If a patient comes here with chronic pain in their shoulder or knee, for example, we first want to find out where the pain or weakness is coming from and what is causing it,” Dr. Nelson noted. “We take things one step at a time. We try to alleviate the pain and weakness with physical therapy first. In many cases, this works for a patient. If the pain and/or weakness persists, the next step would be some type of minimally invasive treatment such as a cortisone shot or other medications. And the third step would be some type of surgical procedure.”

During the current coronavirus pandemic, patients often have the misconception that a medical facility can be a “hot spot.”

“The hospital is the safest place you can be,” insisted Dr. Nelson. “It’s a bubble of safety. We make sure it’s a safe environment for our patients. They are our number one concern.”

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

Introduced in March of 2019, Mako robotic-arm joint replacement system is designed to provide patients with a natural-feeling new joint, utilizing real-time operative guidance system and preoperative plans that are completely customized to each patient’s unique anatomy. Since its inception, the Mako robotic-arm system has been used in over 500 joint replacement surgeries at Alomere Health.

“We are excited to offer our patients Mako robotic-arm assisted joint replacements for better precision, more natural motion and optimal outcomes,” said Dr. Nelson.

The potential benefits of a Mako robotic-arm assisted joint replacement include:

• Implants designed for natural, normal movement.

• Less pain and quicker recovery than traditional joint replacements.

• Personalized surgical plans based on your anatomy for longer-lasting joints.

• Reduced risk of complications.

Dr. Eric Nelson of Heartland Orthopedic Specialists of Alexandria explained joint pain to a patient and what possible treatment he recommends. Contributed photo

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

In addition, Alomere Health has achieved the highest rating possible in hip replacement surgery, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s analysis of hospitals which includes data from nearly 5,000 centers across multiple clinical specialties, procedures and conditions. Scores are based on a variety of patient outcome and care-related factors, such as patient safety and nurse staffing. Hospitals are ranked nationally in specialties and regionally in states and major metro areas.

“The care I received in the hospital after my total knee (replacement) was excellent. All the nurses were so kind and understanding,” said Peggy F. “I had the best care you can get while I was there. Dr. Nelson was very kind and professional. If I ever have to get the other knee replaced, I would go back to Heartland Orthopedics Specialists again.”

Dr. Nelson received his undergraduate degree at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.; medical degree and orthopedic surgery residency from the University of Minnesota; and board certification and subspecialty certification in sports medicine, from the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery.

Showing the location of a patient’s shoulder pain. Contributed photo

After medical school and residency, Dr. Nelson served nine years in the United States Air Force. While there, he gained valuable trauma experience during his combat tour in Iraq. He also was the team doctor for the Air Force Falcons Division I men’s hockey team.

“As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, I am focused on sports medicine and general orthopedics,” he said. “We have an outstanding staff here at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists. Our focus is on improving the quality of life for the people of west central Minnesota.”

Since 1974, doctors and staff members at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists have been trusted orthopedic specialists in Alexandria, Willmar, Morris, Appleton, Graceville, Wadena, Fergus Falls, and the surrounding area.

“We are committed to offering the best possible options for our community’s orthopedic health,” says Heartland Orthopedic Specialists Joint Care Coordinator Angie Miller. “It’s exciting to be able to offer this transformative technology across the joint replacement service line.”

A recent patient had chronic pain in both shoulders and was referred to Heartland Orthopedic Specialists for shoulder replacement surgery.

“Dr. Nelson was my surgeon. Now I don’t have any pain and (my shoulders) feel great,” said Larry B. “I’m back to work now and don’t have any problems. I would recommend Heartland Orthopedic Specialists and Dr. Nelson to anyone who has shoulder pain. It was a great experience for me.”

The following are physicians at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria:

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

Dennis P. Weigel, M.D.: Shoulder & Elbow, Hand & Wrist, Hip, Knee.

Eric W. Nelson, M.D.: Sports Medicine, Joint Replacement, Shoulder & Elbow, Hand & Wrist, Hip, Knee.

Siegfried (Sig) Feierabend, M.D.: Joint Replacement, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, Hand & Wrist.

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

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

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

James E. Andrews Jr., D.O.: Therapeutic, Neuromuscular Care.

Timothy E. Lindley, M.D., PhD.: Back, Neck & Spine Surgery, Neurosurgery.

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

Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, a service of Alomere Health, is located at 111 17th Ave. East, Suite 101, in Alexandria. Office hours are Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A view of Heartland Orthopedic Specialists of Alomere Health in Alexandria. Contributed photo

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

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