Raleigh, N.C. — Many people put up with hip pain because they can't afford time off their feet recovering from hip replacement surgery. However, a newer approach to the surgery is less invasive and promises a faster recovery.
Kathleen Falco, 77, dealt with osteoarthritis in her right hip for years and knew she needed a hip replacement, but says she kept putting it off because she was “afraid of surgery.”
Her problem was in the ball and socket joint, where the cartilage that lubricates the movement was worn away. Typically, surgeons access the hip from the side, but WakeMed orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Timothy Harris offered Falco a newer, less invasive approach – anterior hip replacement.
“So, instead of going through the side, where we have to cut muscle off the hip, we go in from the front, and we can spread the muscles apart to get the hip in,” Harris said.
Normally, the anterior approach makes placing the new joint parts more difficult.
“So they developed some special instruments to make it easier to put it in,” Harris said.
The new tools and technique have been around for several years, but Harris says their use is now more widespread.
“The recovery is a little bit faster, so they don't have as much pain after surgery, and they bounce back a little bit faster,” he said.
Falco's younger sister had the traditional surgery and stayed in the hospital a day longer. It also took longer to get on her feet for a shower, whereas it took Falco just three days.
“She just couldn't believe it. ‘You took a shower already?’” Falco laughed.
Falco also got off pain pills and no longer needed a walker or cane after three weeks.
Even with the anterior hip replacement, doctors recommend their patients take it slower for six to eight weeks after surgery to avoid complications.