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Helping patients become active again

Heartland is first in region to offer robotic-arm assisted total knee and hip replacements

By Scott Thoma

Dr. Aaron J. Balgaard combined the talents of his grandfather and father into making his career decision of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. He has now been with Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria and Willmar since the fall 2018.

Dr. Aaron Balgaard gives a demonstration on knee replacement surgery to high school students. Contributed photo

“My grandpa (Dr. Lueders) was a physician in this area and I always thought he had a pretty cool career,” said Dr. Balgaard. “Watching him practice and observing the impact he had on the community inspired me to begin my own journey in medicine.

“My dad was a carpenter and that’s why I like the manual aspect of working your hands. So, I decided to become an orthopedic surgeon. I consider it an honor to be practicing in the region where I was raised. “

Dr. Balgaard specializes in treating injuries and conditions of the hip, knee, and shoulder, as well as fracture care.

“I am committed to providing evidence-based treatments for the best possible outcomes, and my surgical expertise includes total joint replacement of the hip and knee, rotator cuff repair, and arthroscopy of the knee and shoulder,” he said.

Heartland Orthopedic Specialists is the first in the region to offer robotic-arm assisted 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, the 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 1,000 joint replacement surgeries at Alomere Health.

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

• Implants designed for natural, normal movement.

• Less pain and quicker recovery than traditional joint replacements.

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

• Reduced risk of complications.

“I use the robotic-arm for hip and knee surgery,” Dr. Balgaard said. “The technology is pretty amazing with how precise it can be.”

Dr. Balgaard explained how the traditional way of patient-specific surgery employed customizing “jigs” for bone resections in total knee and hip replacement surgery.

Heartland Orthopedic is a service of Alomere Health and is located at 111 17th Avenue East, Suite 101 in Alexandria. Contributed photo

“Now we get a CT scan before surgery, and we use a 3D model of that scan during surgery,” he said. “We feed the information into the computer and makes things much more precise during surgery. We also apply small antennas to the femur and tibia and the computer knows where the knee is at all times by those antennas, which allows us to move the knee during surgery if we need to.”

Besides being more precise, this technology also reduces surgical time, blood loss and in-patient hospital stay as patients only stay over one night or are even discharged the same day.

Dr. Balgaard grew up in Ashby, Minnesota, and completed his undergraduate studies at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before attending the University of Minnesota Medical School. He later completed an orthopedic surgery residency at The University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, Kansas.

He and his wife, Lindee, have three daughters. When he is not seeing patients, Dr. Balgaard enjoys spending quality time with his family and stays active through outdoor activities, like hunting, fishing, and basketball. He also enjoys woodworking and decoy carving.

“Getting patients back healthy again is the most important and rewarding part of my job,” said Dr. Balgaard. “My goal is to give my patients a better quality of life and get them up and active again.”

One of Dr. Balgaard’s patients has such severe hip arthritis that he was confined to a wheelchair.

“I was surprised to learn that he was in a wheelchair for a couple of months because his arthritis had gotten that bad,” he said. “After his joint replacement surgery, he was walking again. His family told me how they happy they were to see him up and able to do things again.”

Dr. Aaron Balgaard

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 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.

• 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 and & 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 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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

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