With just one week to go until the Orthopaedic Knee Conference, we talk to chairman Mike McNicholas about life as an orthopaedic surgeon
OPN: As a specialist in knee surgery, could you tell us more about your experience and training background in this field?
MM: My day-to-day role is as a Consultant Soft Tissue Knee and Trauma surgeon at the University Hospital Aintree, Major Trauma Centre for the Cheshire and Mersey Region, with a private practice held in Spire Cheshire and Manchester Hospitals.
After completing knee fellowships in Edinburgh, Switzerland, America and Japan, I was appointed as a Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic surgeon in Warrington General Hospital (2001), specialising in knee surgery. I qualified from the Universities of St Andrews (BSc, 1986), Manchester (MB, ChB, 1989) and Dundee (MD, 2000).
My current research interests include: stem cell applications in knee injury, outcomes following arthroplasty, ligament reconstruction, osteotomy, the treatment of focal articular cartilage defects and early arthritis using novel implants. I also focus on outcomes for complex trauma of the lower limb, such as high-energy fractures treated by Ilizarov external fixation frames, multiligament injuries and dislocations of the knee and the surgical treatment of gunshot wounds.
OPN: What do you hope the delegates will leave with at the end of the one-day conference?
MM: The delegates will see leaders in their respective fields giving a wide-ranging update of various aspects of current therapeutic interventions for knee pathologies and an informative look back at the life and times of one of the founders of modern knee surgery. They will leave an interactive, informative and enjoyable programme, enthused about the new options available for them to help patients they see in their clinical practice.
OPN: Who should attend the event?
MM: The event is open to all individuals involved in treating patients for knee pathology. Suitable for experienced and newly-appointed consultants, trainees who are aspiring knee specialists and those with the exit exam looming.
Medical students with an interest in orthopaedics would be most welcome, too. Basic scientists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and nursing staff would also enjoy the day.
OPN: How do you think the future looks in the field of orthopaedics and knee surgery?
MM: Improved material science, stem cell applications and ongoing research continue to keep orthopaedics the most exciting of surgical specialities, ensuring it will remain at the cutting-edge of surgery.
OPN: What drove you to choose surgery as a career – and orthopaedic surgery in particular?
MM: Sport has played a significant role in my life, I was a St Andrew’s University Blue in swimming and waterpolo and I have also played a great deal of rugby, volleyball and football.
Given my background, I have a keen interest in sports knee injuries and their management for all levels of players, from Premiership footballers and elite athletes to those who just want to be able to have a kick-about in the garden with their kids.
OPN: What’s the best part of your job?
MM: The combination of the varied technical challenges knee surgery gives during surgery, from the most challenging multi-ligament reconstruction to the satisfaction of a routine knee replacement performed to the straightforward arthroscopy. As each returns my patients to better function, comfort and productive lives. Sometimes they even say thanks!
OPN: And the worst … ?
MM: The unfortunate but inevitable complications our patients suffer, despite our best efforts to help avoid them.
OPN: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
MM: The opportunity to work with enthusiastic colleagues on cutting-edge surgical techniques around the world.
OPN: If you weren’t an orthopaedic surgeon what would you be?
MM: A joiner, like my dad.
OPN: What would you tell your 21-year-old self?
Go for it, knee surgery really is as good as it looks.
OPN: If you were Health Minister for the day what changes would you implement?
MM: I would be arguing with the Treasury to release sufficient funds to allow the NHS to maintain and improve services.
OPN: Away from the clinic and operating theatre – what do you do to relax?
MM: Exercising, swimming, hillwalking and travel.