Orthopedic Surgery: getting Airmen back on their feet

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum
  • 99th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When Airmen are injured, receiving care in order to heal and return to their daily mission is the top priority.

The 99th Surgical Operations Squadron orthopedics unit performs procedures day-in and day-out to help injured Airmen at the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center.

“Our mission is to provide surgical care to each Airman in need so that they can heal and recover,” said Capt. James Taylor Jr., 99th MSGS operating room nurse. “The goal is to get Airmen back to their mission. We provide surgical services in any manner that they need in order to reach that goal.”

When the time comes for Airmen to receive care, they are sent to orthopedics, which is considered a specialty clinic.

“The surgical process starts with Airmen seeing their primary care physician,” said Taylor. “From there they are referred to a specialist, whether that be a general, orthopedics or ear, nose and throat surgeon. The patients then meet with them and cases get scheduled.”

The orthopedics unit of the 99th MSGS performs a variety of surgeries in order to help Airmen return to top form after being injured.

“We do a wide range of procedures for the musculoskeletal system,” said Maj. Jana Davis, 99th MSGS orthopedic surgeon. “From sports-type arthroscopy, and treatment of rotator cuff disorders, instability of the shoulder procedures, to ligament, meniscal surgeries and total joint arthroplasties for the knees and hips.”

A large number of these surgeries come from Airmen who have suffered injuries while participating in physical activities.

“Most of the procedures that we perform are sports related, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or instability in the knee.” said Maj. Ryan Swope, 99th MSGS orthopedic surgeon. “Once we fix that we can get the Airmen back to their job.”

Not only does the orthopedic unit help Airmen stationed at Nellis AFB, the unit also provides care to dependents and veterans at the MOFMC.

“Probably 80 percent of our patients are Air Force active duty and their dependents, and then the other roughly 20 percent are retirees,” said Davis. “It’s very rare for us to see Navy, Army or Marines, but we certainly can if the need arises.”

In helping these patients, the orthopedics unit works as a team.  

“The technicians and the enlisted we have do a phenomenal job, as far as preparing instruments, sterilizing and preparing sets over and over,” said Taylor. “They put in endless hours and do amazing work.”

With surgeons, nurses and technicians working together, the MOFMC orthopedics unit helps heal Airmen daily to return them to peak form and ultimately, mission readiness.