Get your hip replaced and walk the same day? Surgical technique makes it possible
John O’Shaugnessy recently did something very special with his five-year-old daughter Aria. The Calgary dad crouched down and tied the little girl’s first pair of hockey skates.
“She just started Timbits hockey,” O’Shaugnessy said. “I’m more excited than she is.”
The father-daughter moment was all the more sweet because a year earlier, O’Shaugnessy believes it just would not have been impossible. The 40-year-old had been suffering from hip pain so severe, most activities were off limits. Doctors told him both of his hip joints would need to be replaced.
“I had been fit for most of my life and then having my body start to degenerate on me in my late 30s, I just kind of thought, ‘This is happening way too early.'”
Initially, O’Shaugnessy says he was nervous about recovering from hip replacement surgery. He never imagined how quickly he’d be back on his feet.
“I was up and walking within about five hours of being outside the (operating room) and I went home the next day.”
O’Shaugnessy’s quick recovery was thanks to how his hip replacement was done. Traditionally, surgeons have had to cut through muscle and other tissue to get to the hip joint but by turning the patient over, they don’t have to.
“What that means is that we don’t cut muscles and tendons as much as any of the other approaches. Because of that, patients experience a lot less pain and they’re able to mobilize a lot quicker,” said Dr. Rajrishi Sharma, an orthopedic surgeon at Calgary’s Peter Lougheed Centre.
This anterior approach method has been used in the United States and around Europe for about a decade but within Canada, the surgery has only been performed for the last few years and is currently only available in a handful of Canadian cities, including Calgary, Ottawa and London.
According to Sharma, there are several major advantages to the surgical method. Not only do patients recover faster, there is a lower risk of hip dislocation and because patients require fewer nights in hospital, the health system saves money as well.
“Typically, with an anterior approach, patients will be waking three to four hours after surgery and they can be discharged home either the same day or the following day. This is opposed to the other approaches where it can take between two to four days.”
In Calgary, the anterior approach is now being performed by six surgeons. Three specialized surgical tables for the method have been purchased by the Calgary Health Trust.
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