Where others might call it quits, former missionary Drue Anderson keeps on going. And thanks to two new hips, she can.
The Naperville senior had swapped a career in interior design for a job as missions director to young people in Venezuela almost a decade ago. Her work kept her active, leading students on 17 trips over eight years to places like the Amazon jungle, Cuba and Russia. That is, until pain in her hip made it increasingly difficult, and dangerous, to continue.
At first Anderson tried physical therapy and other treatments with her doctors in Venezuela. But when it became clear that there was a bone-on-bone issue, she reluctantly moved back to the States. It was here that she found Dr. Aaron Rosenberg of Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center, who suggested a total hip replacement.
“I was afraid that I wouldn’t be as active,” Anderson said. “And if I fell, what would happen?”
Those fears were unfounded.
Joint replacement surgery has a 90 percent success rate, according to the National Institutes of Health. And hip replacement surgery is one of the most successful orthopaedic surgeries performed. It is also increasingly common. The Centers for Disease Control shows that more than 300,000 total hip replacements were done in 2010.
Dr. Rosenberg explains that total hip arthroplasty involves surgically replacing both the ball and socket of a diseased hip with prosthetic parts. Other procedures include fusion of the joint (rarely used now), osteotomy (bone cutting), and arthroscopy (surface repair).
“Hip replacements are done when there is no longer any hope for salvaging or maintaining the joint,” he says.
Prior to that a patient could go through physical therapy, arthroscopy to take out cartilage or bone spurs, or even simple weight loss and exercise. All can provide relief for joint discomfort. But when patients experience pain and stiffness that curtails their activity and makes even putting on shoes and socks impossible and other treatments don’t work, it may be time for more dramatic treatment.
“The vast majority of patients don’t have a hip replacement done because of fear,” says Rosenberg. “Then after the surgery they ask, ‘why did I wait?’ because the relief is so great.”
Anderson agrees. “If you’re really hurting, it’s time to see a doctor. And if he suggests hip replacement, don’t be afraid.”
For total hip replacements the surgery usually involves a three- to 10-day hospital stay followed by rehab, although for younger people the procedure may allow them to be up on crutches the same day. Anderson found her overall recovery time of two and a half months to be worth the hassle.
While total hip replacement is greatly successful with few complications (the greatest being the danger of hip dislocation due to prosthetic parts being smaller than natural ones), not every patient with hip pain may be a candidate.
Rosenberg suggests looking into the causes of hip pain first. “To what extent is the problem coming from the hip? Many confuse back and spine pain with hip pain.”
Anderson has been thrilled with the outcome of her surgery. She hadn’t expected to regain balance, because one leg had become 1½ inches shorter due to the disease in her hip, but with the surgery that was corrected. Now she finds herself able to be more active than she thought, slowly returning to her gym workouts and making plans for travel again.
“I got renewed life. Instead of it holding me back, it’s making me be able to go forward,” she says. “It’s totally better than new.”