Health Check: Ski dancer back on slopes after knee replacement

Dr. Dave Burns, left, talks with Charlie Malfetti about his knee replacement procedure.

Eighty-five-year old Charlie Malfetti and his wife, Cheryl, feel most comfortable on the ski slopes.

Ski dancing is something Cheryl, a former figure skater, helped develop about 30 years ago.

"We've been invited to ski all over the world, ski dance all over the world," Cheryl said.

Three years ago, after years of knee pain, Charlie's left knee was shot.

"He was hurting. He was really hurting," Cheryl said.

"I used to walk up the stairs like an old man, one step at a time," Charlie said.

Dr. Dave Burns, an orthopedic surgeon at South County Hospital, said Charlie couldn't ski and had trouble walking.

"He had a significant amount of lateral knee pain when he came in," Burns said.

Burns suggested a partial knee replacement using Makoplasty robotic technology.

"The key is precision, precision placement. And I think the one thing that we always forget about is soft tissue balancing is an important component and that also can be done with the robot," Burns said.

Burns said it starts with preparing the inside of the knee which is mapped out via a computer.

"And we put the implant after we're done burring right into that area and cement it in place," he said. "With the implant in you can straighten the knee out, and basically we took the rough surface and put a nice gliding surface on the lateral side."

Charlie says he now has a knee of a 15-year-old. And he and his wife are back on the slopes.

"It's just a great, fun way to still be out at our age," Cheryl said.

When the couple is not skiing, they're ballroom dancing.

Makoplasty was FDA-approved about eight years ago and South County Hospital is the only hospital in Rhode Island utilizing it.