Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Phoenix -- Barry Bonds' comeback bid took a further turn for the worse Monday when he underwent yet another arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, this time to clean out an infection, The Chronicle has learned.
The surgery, performed in Southern California, was the third on Bonds' right knee since Jan. 31, when he underwent an initial procedure to remove damaged cartilage. On March 17, Bonds had a similar operation to remove torn cartilage.
His attempts to rehabilitate the knee and return to the field have been stalled by swelling that has not allowed him to perform required exercises.
On Sunday, Bonds posted a journal entry on his Web site saying he flew to Southern California to be examined by Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum and had the knee drained of fluid to ensure "there isn't any infection and that I'm healing properly." It was the second time he had the knee drained in eight days, and the third time since the March 17 operation.
The Chronicle has learned the knee indeed was infected, and an operation was performed Monday to flush out the infection using fluids and antibiotics. Bonds is expected to take antibiotics for at least the next two weeks, and he would not restart rehabilitation work until he is assured the infection is gone.
Given that, Bonds' return to action wouldn't be expected for at least two months.
The Giants are not commenting on any aspect of Bonds' medical condition. When contacted by The Chronicle on Tuesday, Bonds' publicist, Rachel Vizcarra, said she had no information on Bonds' knee. Bonds' agent, Jeff Borris, declined comment except to say Bonds is committed to returning to the field as quickly as possible.
It is not clear what caused the infection, but this could explain why the knee continued to swell despite a second cartilage cleanup procedure.
"Unfortunately, infection is a known risk of any kind of surgery," said Dr. Jeffrey Halbrecht, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. He has no specific knowledge of Bonds' case and spoke generally about the type of procedure the left fielder underwent.
Halbrecht said the risk of infection is much lower following arthroscopic surgery and occurs in 0.1 of a percent of cases, or one in 1,000.
If an infection is found, Halbrecht said, an arthroscope is re-inserted into the knee and the bacteria is flushed out of the joint with 10,000 cubic centimeters of fluid, mixed with antibiotics to kill the bacteria. The patient then continues to take antibiotics, often intravenously, but possibly orally, for two to six weeks, depending on how bad the infection was and how quickly the patient responds to the medicine.
Halbrecht said the biggest long-term risk following such an infection is stiffness and chronic pain in the joint during rehabilitation.
"It's a more complex recovery and less predictable than a simple knee arthroscopy," he said.
In light of this procedure, it would be difficult to predict when Bonds will rejoin the Giants and resume his chase of Henry Aaron's home run record of 755. Bonds has 703 homers, 11 short of Babe Ruth's second-place total.