Embarking on a journey that transcends the realms of traditional orthopaedic surgery, Dr Ashok Rajgopal emerges as a virtuoso in the field, composing a symphony of surgical innovation and compassionate care. From redefining knee replacement techniques to pioneering robotic surgery and establishing a foundation dedicated to societal well-being, his legacy extends far beyond records – it is a testament to a life dedicated to the “Joy of Walking” and transforming lives on a global scale..…
By Amresh K Tiwary
In the realm of orthopaedic surgery, the name of Dr Ashok Rajgopal resonates as a luminary, a maestro who has not only revolutionised knee surgery but has left an indelible mark on the global stage. With an exceptional record of completing an unprecedented 30 total knee replacement surgeries within the remarkably short span of 12 hours, he has rightfully earned the distinguished moniker “Bone of India.”
Dr Rajgopal, currently serving as a prominent knee replacement surgeon at Medanta Medicity Hospital in Gurgaon, is a force to be reckoned with in the field. His surgical prowess is exemplified by an impressive portfolio that spans over 25,000 arthroscopic procedures and more than 35,000 total knee arthroplastic surgeries. Beyond being a skilled surgeon, he plays a significant role in esteemed bodies committed to advancing knee surgery techniques, making the orthopaedic surgery unit under his guidance a beacon of academic excellence and innovation.
What sets Dr Rajgopal apart is not just his surgical skills but also his commitment to incorporating cutting-edge technologies and materials. Trabecular Metal implants, known as TM, have become a hallmark of his surgeries. These advanced, cementless implants boast a remarkable strength-to-weight ratio and mechanical properties that closely mimic natural bone. The result is a surgical approach that ensures both durability and resilience under the physiological loading experienced by the knee joint.
A Surgical Genius
Pioneering advancements in knee replacement surgery, Dr Rajgopal is a trailblazer in virtual total knee replacement. By leveraging patient-specific instruments and meticulous planning derived from MRI scans, he ensures optimal alignment, a critical factor in the longevity and proper functioning of the knee joint. This groundbreaking approach eliminates the need for multiple instruments and trials, showcasing a commitment to precision without compromising flexibility during surgery.
With a career spanning nearly four decades, Dr Rajgopal is a graduate of the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune. His academic journey continued with a Masters in Surgery from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and further studies in MCh from Liverpool, UK. However, what truly distinguishes him is his decision to return to India in 1985, at a time when many professionals sought opportunities abroad. Since then, he has been in independent practice, leaving an indelible mark on the field of Orthopaedics.
Global Recognition and Innovations
Internationally renowned, Dr Rajgopal’s influence extends far beyond the borders of India. His name is synonymous with knee surgery, and his contributions to the field are diverse. He played an important role in designing the Persona Knee System as the only Indian member of the Persona Developer team at the Zimmer Institute. His commitment to innovation is further evident in his role as the designer of instruments used in minimally invasive surgery, which are now employed by surgeons globally.
Dr Rajgopal’s impact is not confined to the operating room. He has mentored over 100 orthopaedic surgeons worldwide, sharing his knowledge and expertise. His interest in academics is reflected in numerous authored papers, book chapters, and editorial responsibilities for international orthopaedic journals. His book on knee surgery, published by Jaypee, serves as a reference guide for budding orthopaedic surgeons.
Robotic Precision in Knee Surgery
Dr Rajgopal embraced robotic technology for knee surgery. Contrary to misconceptions, robotic knee surgery isn’t performed by a machine but rather with the surgeon’s guidance. The robotic arm assists in achieving unparalleled digital precision and alignment of the implant, contributing to better stability of the replaced knee. This technological advancement has proven to enhance outcomes, allowing patients to stand and walk within hours of the surgery, facilitating rapid rehabilitation.
Foundation for Change
In 2015, Dr. Rajgopal embarked on a personal journey to contribute to societal change by establishing the Rajgopal Foundation – Dedicated to the Joy of Walking. This philanthropic endeavour draws inspiration from the teachings of his father Mr PR Rajgopal, a man who firmly believed in charitable work, assisting those in a weaker position and emphasising individual responsibility to empower the underprivileged.
The Rajgopal Foundation’s impact extends far beyond surgical procedures. It supports the higher education of young girls nationwide, conducts health awareness camps, and advocates for prevention and management of sports injuries. Sports personalities like P. Gopichand, Karnam Malleswari, and M. Kunjarani all benefited from his expertise – and he never charged them a penny. In fact, one episode the famous badminton player P. Gopichand always likes to quote is when, after his knee surgery, his father asked Dr Rajgopal for a bill for his professional services. Dr Rajgopal responded by saying, “The All England Title,” and true to his word, the famous badminton player obliged!
Young children whose promising sports careers are threatened due to an injury sustained on the field and are unable to get themselves treated find their way to Dr. Rajgopal’s clinic where they are treated free of cost. Not only that, he follows their recovery and rehabilitation program, ensuring that they return to the sports field fitter than before.
Dr Rajgopal’s commitment to narrowing economic inequalities in healthcare is particularly evident, as patients from around the world, especially Africa and the Middle East, seek treatment in India to be operated upon by him.
A Living Legacy of Compassion and Excellence
Dr Ashok Rajgopal’s legacy is not just in numbers. It’s a testament to a life dedicated to excellence in orthopaedic surgery, education, and societal well-being. His commitment to the “Joy of Walking” goes beyond physical mobility; it embodies dignity, empowerment, and a commitment to change lives for the better.
One particular feat etched in the annals of medical history is Dr Rajgopal’s entry into the Limca Book of World Records. In 2011, he performed an extraordinary 28 knee replacement surgeries in just 12 hours, showcasing not only his surgical dexterity but also his unwavering commitment to serving a multitude of patients in need.
From Bilateral to Minimally Invasive
Dr Rajgopal’s trailblazing spirit is evident in being the first orthopaedic surgeon to perform a bilateral total knee replacement surgery in the country, replacing both knees in a single-stage procedure under one anaesthesia back in 1985. This was a groundbreaking stride that underlined his commitment to advancing surgical techniques for the benefit of patients.
His pioneering spirit did not stop there. Dr Rajgopal was the first to perform a minimally invasive knee replacement procedure in the country. This approach, characterised by smaller incisions and reduced trauma to surrounding tissues, marked a significant advancement in enhancing patient outcomes, minimising pain, and expediting recovery.
Dr Rajgopal further added to his list of firsts by being the first to perform a Unicompartmental knee replacement (partial knee replacement) procedure in India. His commitment to precision surgery led him to introduce Patient-Specific Instrumentation in Total Knee Arthroplasty, another milestone that revolutionised the field by tailoring surgical plans to the unique anatomy of each patient.
Gender-Specific Knee Implants
Always at the forefront of innovation, Dr Rajgopal was the first orthopaedic surgeon in India to use gender-specific knee implants in 2007, recognising the importance of customisation for better outcomes.
In 2017, Dr Rajgopal reached another milestone by performing the first robotic knee replacement surgery in India. Dr Rajgopal’s early adoption and mastery of robotic total knee arthroplasty showcase his commitment to embracing and advancing technology for the benefit of patients.
Training Surgeons Worldwide and Contributing to Academic Literature
Beyond his surgical achievements, Dr. Rajgopal’s impact extends globally through his role as an educator. He has trained more than 100 orthopaedic surgeons from around the world, imparting not just surgical skills but also the ethos of compassionate patient care. His academic contributions include authored papers, book chapters, and editorial roles in international orthopaedic journals. His book on knee surgery, published by Jaypee, serves as a valuable reference for aspiring orthopaedic surgeons worldwide.
Dr Rajgopal’s commitment to excellence in orthopaedic surgery has significantly contributed to placing India on the global platform, especially in the realm of knee replacement surgery. Patients from diverse corners of the world, particularly Africa and the Middle East, choose to travel to India for the expertise of Dr Rajgopal, turning the country into a sought-after destination for joint replacement surgeries.
“The Joy of Walking” – A Tagline with a Profound Message
At the heart of the Rajgopal Foundation is the tagline “The Joy of Walking.” It transcends the physical act of walking and encapsulates the profound message of walking with dignity and the head held high in every sphere of life. The foundation, under Dr Rajgopal’s guidance, seeks to empower individuals not just through medical interventions but by fostering education, awareness, and holistic well-being.
Dr Rajgopal’s impact is not measured solely in records and accolades but in the countless lives touched, the surgeons trained, and the enduring legacy of compassionate care and innovation in orthopaedic surgery.