Anterior hip surgery gets oak forest mom back on the move

 The average age for a hip replacement has been steadily dropping over the last several years.

In fact, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says the number of patients between the ages of 45 and 64 having hip replacements increased 123 percent between 2000 and 2009 and continues to climb. Among the youngest group — 45 to 54 — the increase has been nearly 200 percent.

At age 47, Michelle Pruitt of Oak Forest, an energetic mother of five and grandmother of three, had her left hip replaced at University of Chicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial in February. For several years, hereditary osteoarthritis “ate away” at her left hip, leading to an excruciating “bone-on-bone” situation that made it nearly impossible for Pruitt to walk.

“At first I thought I pulled a muscle,” she explains. But the achiness persisted until Pruitt developed a limp. Afraid to hear that she might need surgery, Pruitt endured five months of debilitating pain before making an appointment to see board-certified orthopedic surgeon Daniel Weber, MD* of Integrity Orthopedics.

As she feared, joint replacement surgery was the only option for her arthritis-ravaged left hip. But there was a bright side too. Pruitt’s age, health and superior fitness level would make her recovery easier than most.

“I decided that I could deal with the pain from surgery,” she explains. “I knew that would be temporary.”

So Pruitt put her fears aside and underwent anterior hip replacement at Ingalls in February.

“The anterior approach minimizes the pain and time from surgery to recovery, which is particularly important for patients who still work,” Dr. Weber explains. The advanced technique involves a single small incision on the front (or anterior) of the hip, allowing orthopedic surgeons to work between the muscles and tissues without detaching them from either the hip or thighbones.

Keeping the muscles intact is the key to greater hip strength and shorter recovery after surgery. And, since the incision is in front, patients avoid the pain of sitting on the incision site.

What’s more, within a couple days, anterior hip patients can bend their hip freely, bear weight, climb stairs, and activities in as little as eight weeks or less.

To Pruitt’s delight, she spent only two days in the hospital. Even better, she quickly graduated from walker to cane, and just 10 days after surgery, she went to her follow-up appointment with no assistive device of any kind.

“I walked in without a cane, and I jumped off the exam table,” she added with a smile.

As for exercise, Pruitt was back at it within weeks — walking, using an elliptical machine, riding an exercise bike, and climbing the stairs at Swallow Cliff. And since she works at a health club, she’s never more than a few feet away from the machine of her choice.

She’s also made multiple referrals to Dr. Weber since then. “Don’t wait like I did,” she adds. “You’ll be surprised at how fast you can recover.”

If you or someone you know is suffering from hip pain, call the Ingalls Advance Orthopedic Institute at 708.915.PAIN (7246) today.

*Dr. Daniel Weber is an independent medical practitioner and is not an employee or agent of Ingalls Memorial Hospital or University of Chicago Medical Center (“UChicago Medicine”).