Discover what our patients have to say regarding their office visit, surgical experience or recovery process. We also encourage our existing patients to share their own experience!
- Knee surgery
Thank you for the professionalism and care you provided through my surgeries and recovery. My leg has not felt this good in a long time. Thank you very much.
- Knee surgery
“"Dear Richard, Much Appreciated"
- Knee surgery
“Playing golf and making birdies!!! Knee holding fine! Yesterday dance salsa and merengue! Perfect and progressing!
*Cesar Herrera flew in from the Dominican Republic to have surgery.”
- Reconstructive Knee Surgery
“In the summer of 2009, Matt Norfleet was guiding a group of whitewater rafters down a particularly treacherous stretch of the Colorado River's Gore Canyon called Tunnel Falls. As the raft went over the falls, the bottom of the boat dropped out and Mike's leg got caught under the raft's cross-tube. He was thrown forward but his leg didn't come with him. Mike heard a snap, so he knew things were bad. He was in shock and thought he broke his leg. Another guide jumped into the boat and got the raft to shore. As a trained EMT, Mike was able to assess his injury. He couldn't feel any abnormalities in his leg meaning it was most likely soft-tissue damage and no broken bones. After managing to guide the raft through the rest of the run, Matt went directly to the ER. His knee was swollen badly and he couldn't walk.
At the hospital, Matt was told how serious of an injury he had sustained. He had suffered serious trauma to his right knee with multiple torn ligaments... including his ACL, his LCL, and his popliteal or posterior ligament. Matt had also suffered damage to his bicep. He had stretched the nerves in his knee as far as they could go and would need to undergo massive reconstructive knee surgery.
Matt, who spends his summers as a raft-guide and his winters as a ski patroller at Arapahoe Basin, says he knew he wanted to see Dr. Richard Cunningham. "He had done the knees of a few ski patrollers I know and they said he was great." At the initial consultation, Matt says Dr. Cunningham was very honest about Matt's situation. "He told me I wouldn't be able to ski that next season; I was crushed." That's when Matt realized how close he came to never being able to do the things he loves to do again.
In the past, injuring more than one knee ligament would put an end to future sports activities. Today, many athletes are able to return to high level sports following multiple ligament injuries.
Injuring multiple ligaments can have serious complications. They can disrupt blood supply to the leg. They can also affect the nerves that supply the muscles of the limb. Dr. Cunningham suggested repairing the damage in two separate surgeries. The first surgery was performed right away to repair Matt's torn LCL, popliteal and bicep.
Two months later, Dr. Cunningham repaired Matt's badly torn ACL using a break-through technique called a "Double-Bundle". Dr. Cunningham says this new technique is stronger and provides better knee stability than the usual single bundle technique by more closely restoring a normal knee's biomechanics. The technique has created quite a buzz amongst local physical therapists. "Several therapists have mentioned that patients are getting their range of motion, stability, and strength back faster than other ACL patients in rehab," says Dr. Cunningham.
Throughout his ordeal, Matt says Dr. Cunningham and his staff, including physician assistant Mike Outslay were "awesome." "Dr. Cunningham is an amazing surgeon and Mike was great at telling me what to expect until my next appointment. He gives you a real personal connection."
Committed to getting back to skiing and rafting, Matt didn't miss one single physical therapy session. He was cleared five-six weeks early. He guided rafting that next summer and was back on the slopes the following winter. "I really had no problems considering the severity of my injuries. It hasn't held me back at all. I am ecstatic with my outcome and really grateful. I guess I didn't realize how close I came to not being able to come back at all."
- ACL Repair
“At first, Bethany McGee thought she was fine after being hit by an out-of-control skier at Beaver Creek ski area. "I thought I just pulled a muscle or something," the avid skier recalls. After trying to ski about 10 yards down the mountain however, Bethany realized her leg was 'dangling' from her body below her knee. Thankfully a friend, who happens to be a ski patroller, caught up with her and radioed down for a sled.
By the time Bethany arrived at the medical center, the pain started to set it. The medical staff told her she probably injured her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). They gave her a pair of crutches and a brace and told her to go see an orthopaedic surgeon for an MRI.
After asking around for a referral, two people she knew recommended Dr. Rick Cunningham, an expert in the latest surgical techniques for treating sports injuries of the knee. "These were people I trusted so I knew I was making the right choice," says Bethany.
She called Vail-Summit Orthopaedics and was able to get in to see Dr. Cunningham the next day. An MRI revealed a completely torn ACL; Bethany would need surgery. All she could think about was her upcoming month-long trip to Australia. "Dr. Cunningham was great; he was so calming and so understanding. He explained that I didn't need to have the surgery right away and that I could wait until after my trip."
Upon her return, Bethany called to make another appointment with Dr. Cunningham. "The front office staff was great; they looked up his schedule right then and there to find a time that worked best for me. They were polite and professional." During her office visit, Dr. Cunningham took the time to go over her options for surgery. "He was really good at explaining all the different ways he could repair my ACL."
There are three common procedures used to repair damaged ACLs; surgeons either use a strip of the patient's patellar tendon, a tendon from the patient's hamstring, or an ACL from a human cadaver. "He went through the pros and cons of all the techniques and explained everything; he was very thorough - even drawing me a picture of where my scars would be," remembers Bethany. "You feel more comfortable when you're involved in making a decision in your own surgery." Together they decided on the hamstring procedure. "It's a stronger repair that will hold up for a longer time."
Bethany says the surgery was no big deal. The recovery however, was long and hard. "Physical therapy is so important. I would go in so swollen and in so much pain, but after an hour I would leave feeling great," says Bethany. "They push you in order to get you back to doing the things you love." Bethany went to physical therapy 2-3 times a week for several months.
Even though she didn't need to, Bethany took the next winter off from skiing, "I was scared, my knee felt great but it was a mental thing," recalls Bethany. Today, she's skiing more than before her accident and has taken up telemark skiing. She never thinks about her knee, even while she was climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro less than two years after her surgery. ”
- Left Knee Double Bundle ACL Reconstruction
“Judd Santry says at first he didn't think much of it when his ski tips crossed and he went down. It was March of 2008 and the Arapahoe Basin ski area was in the midst of a typical freeze-melt cycle when the snow freezes up and turns firm at night and then softens up during the day, creating the threat of avalanche.
As a ski patroller, Judd was checking the snow quality along with another patroller before opening up a run. "It happened so fast, I just hooked my skis and went down. I got up right away and didn't notice anything. But then I went over a little mound and felt something strange when my knees came up toward me. Not much pain, but sort of a strain in the back of my knee and my leg felt kind of loose."
Still, Judd thought it was just a tweak and wanted to wait a few days to see if it would get better. Everyone kept telling him to get it checked out. Then, while walking down a flight of stairs, Judd slightly hyper-extended his knee and felt a sensation he had never felt before. He decided to go in for an MRI and sure enough, he had torn his ACL and would need surgery.
Judd's reaction was one of disbelief; he thought they were looking at someone else's knee. "It was a freak accident. I must have fallen like that 500 times before and never injured myself," he recalls. "It's a harsh reality when you're told you can't do the one thing you love to do for several months." To make matters worse, Judd says it snowed for 11 straight days after he injured his knee.
Judd chose to have his surgery performed by Dr. Richard Cunningham. Working at his other job as a critical care technician in the emergency room at St. Anthony's Summit Medical Center, Judd had met Dr. Cunningham several times and was well aware of his excellent reputation as a full-service knee and shoulder specialist with particular expertise in ACL reconstruction.
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is probably the most commonly injured ligament of the knee. It connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shin bone). The main goal of ACL surgery is to keep the tibia from moving too far forward under the femur bone and to get the knee functioning normally again.
Most surgeons favor using a piece of tendon or ligament to replace the torn ACL. Prior to surgery, Judd did some research and discovered he would be an ideal candidate for an auto graft where tissue from his own body is used to repair the ligament. Judd knew of other patrollers who had undergone an auto graft transplant and they all felt they ended up with a stronger knee because of it.
Dr. Cunnningham has followed the research on ACL grafts closely. He ascribes to the practice of attaching grafts at their original insertion points where the reproduction of native attachments ensures a better outcome.
Dr. Cunningham chose to repair Judd's knee using the new "double-bundle" reconstructive technique. The ACL is comprised of two separate functional bundles of fascicles, not a single cord. Dr. Cunningham says traditional ACL reconstruction treats the ligament as though it were a single construct, replicating one of the functional bundles but not the other. With the double-bundle technique, the ACL is restored using two bundles. Dr. Cunningham performs the surgery using an arthroscope, a small fiber-optic TV camera that is used to see and operate inside the joint.
Judd makes no bones about it; he says his surgery and the subsequent recovery that followed were rough. "It was six months of pain," he recalls. As a child Judd suffered from night terrors and for some reason, the pain medication brought back the terrors.
Judd remembers his physical therapy sessions being particularly painful. "It's frustrating when your knee won't move more than an inch." Still, he chose an aggressive PT schedule because he was committed to making a full recovery and regaining full range of motion in his knee. Less than six months after surgery, Judd was back on his skis.
"Everyone who worked with me at VSO was great. I never had any problems getting in, my wait times were 10-15 minutes at the most," says Judd. "I was unbelievably fortunate to have surgery up here where the quality of doctors is so fantastic. I hope I never have to have surgery again, but if I do, I will definitely go back to Vail-Summit Orthopaedics."”
- Partial Knee Replacement and ACL Revision
“I am an avid telemark skier, mountain biker, and hiker who has been plagued with years of chronic medial knee pain and several prior surgeries (scope and ACL/microfracture). In March of 2011, Dr. Cunningham and I determined a partial knee replacement and ACL revision would be the right next step for me. I had surgery on my right knee on May 10, 2011. Compounding my recovery were an infection, subsequent manipulation under anesthesia, and a scope in November - needless to say 2011 was a very challenging year. After countless hours of rehab, I was back on my skis in January 2012. Then, I found out in February 2012 that I won a lottery spot to race in the Leadville MTB Trail 100 Race this summer. After countless more hours of training, I successfully completed the race on August 11, 2012 - 15 months after the partial knee replacement and ACL Revision. My knee felt great the whole time! I cannot thank Dr. Cunningham and Della Crone (Avalanche PT) enough for their support, kindness, and compassion through this journey.
- Knee surgery
“I hope team Cunningham is well, and
please know that my knee surgeries have reinvigorated my life. Thanks for all you do with regards to your fabulous knee surgeries. I feel so blessed with my surgeries from Team Cunningham!
Thanks a bunch.
- Knee surgery
“Dr. Cunningham and staff, I deeply thank each one of you.”
- ACL Repair
“The day I tore my ACL & meniscus in the Blue Sky Basin in Vail, I was devastated. It was a bluebird day but the base was insufficient & I hit what turned out to be a downed birch tree. I went flying & knew immediately that the tendons holding my knee together were no longer intact. As an athlete & overall very active individual, it was a terrifying feeling. I thought my life would change forever.
Luckily, the physical therapist at the Howard Head Clinic at Vail Valley Medical Center recommended Dr. Richard Cunningham of Vail Summit Orthopaedics. I injured myself on a Saturday. By 8pm that evening I had a voicemail and email from Dr. Cunningham. He had me in for an MRI the following Monday and invited me to review the results that same day. This instant & thorough follow up was so comforting during this scary time and immediately cemented my decision to have Dr. Cunningham perform my repair, even though I live across the country in NYC.
As this was my first surgery ever, I was a basket case going in. Dr. Cunningham and Matt Cain, PA-C, came in during pre-op and answered my many questions patiently and comprehensively. Dr. Cunningham performed a delicate repair on the area, a terrific outcome that will benefit me greatly in the long run as I continue to pursue my favorite sports of skiing, surfing, biking, and running.
It goes without saying that I hope no one who reads this gets hurt. But if you do, you should definitely put your injured limb in the very capable and talented hands of Richard Cunningham, MD and Matt Cain, PA-C.
- Femur surgery
“Feb 6, 2011, I broke the head off of my left femur bone on Vail mountain while snowboarding in Sun Up bowl. I hit a fallen tree, hidden under powder, at about 35 mph.
Thankfully, Dr. Cunningham was the on call surgeon that Superbowl Sunday, and performed emergency surgery, placing a 14" titanium rod down my femur and securing it with a screw into my hip.
Recovery was rough, extremely rough. I dedicated myself to physical therapy with Dr. Olson at Howard Head and regular check ups and communication with Dr. Cunningham. Weeks turned into months of PT, dry needling, massage therapy, xrays, and pain.... 24/7 "muscle ripping off my bone" pain.
After 1.5 years and constant monitoring by Dr. Cunningham, he agreed things were not usual. Xrays showed my bone had over grown and kept getting bigger. That could explain the extreme soft tissue pain, but there was no clear answer. Dr. Olson thought a metal allergy was a possibility. But, a titanium allergy is so very rare and not usually considered. Dr. Olson and Dr. Cunningham constantly communicated about my physical therapy and every tactic was tried. Still extreme weakness and pain. At this point, Dr. Cunningham is emailing with me to stay up to date. He was invested far beyond what any Ortho is expected to do. Cunningham began process of elimination to solve what was now an unknown area. A surgical hip injection was ordered, and no change. Cunningham consulted with the other great ortho's of Vail Valley. No one had an answer, and the limited progress I had made began to deteriorate. I was getting worse.
Dr. Cunningham sent me a hip trauma expert in Denver. I felt like i was going to see Obie One, my only hope. I was 37 at the time and could not walk up a flight of stairs without a railing and extreme pain. The Denver doctor was absolutely certain the metal rod had nothing to do with my lack of recovery. I begged to have the rod taken out. The Denver Doc told me he would not do it. Dr. Cunningham had sent notes and made calls before i even got to Denver Doc's office. So, i called Cunningham's office. They fit me in 6 days later and he removed the titanium rod. It was this past July, 19 months after my accident. "team Meghan" (Dr. Cunningham, Dr. Olson, dry needlist, massage therapist, chiropractor) continued work and my recovery took off. I had been driving up every weekend to physical therapy and doc appt, but officially moved here after the second surgery to dedicate full time.
Within a month of rod removal I could go up stairs unassisted. Besides bone soreness of marrow regrowth and surgery, my soft tissue pain was gone. IT WAS GONE! after 19 months of constant chronic debilitating pain, it was finally gone.
4 months after rod removal, and after the approval of my team, I left for Nepal with Colorado based non-profit, Love Hope Strength Foundation to hike to Everest Base Camp (17,500) and Kalapathar (18,500 ft), 14 day trek.
Not only did i make it, but my muscles grew back fast and the life I once knew came rushing back to life. I was able to spread my fathers ashes at base camp which made the almost 2 years of pain, loss and fight worth every moment. I am now starting a running program. something i had prepared myself to never do again.
I am a positive person. I am a fighter but this was far greater than anything I could of handled on my own. My life has been focused solely on recovery. Dr. Cunningham never gave up on me. He was always present on my case and patient when I grew tired. The fact is he did his job the day he inserted the titanium rod and my bone healed. The job of the ortho was a success. However, he went beyond his job and stuck with me until the soft tissue healed. I never felt alone with my Vail team. He did not have to continue his care and support, but he did. The professionals of the Vail Valley (Vail-Summit Orthopedics, Howard Head, Vail Integrated Medical Group) have given a woman back her life.
- Meniscus Surgery
“Thanks for fixing my meniscus Dr. Cunningham. I am back to making telemark turns :-)”
- Knee Surgeries
“"I am a fully certified ski instructor at Keystone. My knees got to the point that it was extremely painful to ski, and both knees would swell up every time I skied.
It was also becoming very difficult to play golf, go on walks with the dog, and go up and down stairs. After several arthroscopic knee surgeries, cortisone shorts, "rooster juice," and regular draining of fluid from the knees, it came time to consider knee replacements.
It was decided that a full knee replacement was required for the left knee and a partial knee replacement for the right knee. In February 2008, I had both knee replacements done at the same time.
It is now three years later and I am again teaching and skiing -- everything I had done in the past, almost as well as ever. This includes black and double black diamond moguls and bowls. I have even raced some Nastar, and though I used to be an eight or nine handicap, I am still running in the low teens (I will be 60 years old this summer.) I am also playing golf, biking, and hiking with almost no pain or thought of my knees.
The most interesting thing is that I used to be very bowlegged. With knee surgery, my legs are now almost straight and my skiing stance is actually better than ever.
Replacement knee surgery is one best choices I have ever made. It has allowed me to resume doing almost every activity I had done in the past almost pain free and with almost no thought of knee problems."”
“He took a conservative approach to my surgery, keeping my best interest in mind above other things with great results.”
- Knee Surgery
“Vail Resorts Nordic Ski School Director says "successful full knee replacement out having fun in the Backcountry."”