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Enjoying Life after a Hip Replacement

As a cardiothoracic surgeon, Paul Frantz, M.D., doesn’t enter into surgery lightly.

But once the degenerative arthritis in his left hip began keeping him from doing the outdoor activities he enjoyed most—such as skiing and hiking—he knew it was time to consider a hip replacement.

“I was walking with a limp and was in pain,” says Dr. Frantz, Carilion Clinic’s director of cardiac services. “It was progressively getting worse, and when I had difficulty doing the things I wanted to do, I decided to schedule the surgery.”

His hip replacement was done through the anterior approach—a relatively new technique. Joseph Moskal, M.D., section chief of orthopaedics, introduced it to the region nearly four years ago, and since then, he and his colleagues have performed more than 1,000 of these procedures at Carilion.

The computer-guided procedure involves making a small incision on the front (anterior) of the hip. Unlike the traditional approach to hip replacement, this method does not require the cutting or detachment of muscles and tendons. That means patients can expect less pain and a quicker recovery. There is also a reduced risk of dislocating the joint.

Dr. Frantz, whose wife, Susan, had traditional hip replacement surgery in Pittsburgh nearly a decade ago, believes the anterior approach is superior.

“I had heard about it and read that recovery was faster,” he says. “Having been involved in my wife’s care after her surgery, I knew I wanted to try for a less painful course.”

He was out of the hospital within a few days of surgery and was walking without help soon after.

He’s been pleased with his results. “I’m back to my full range of activity with no limitations, except running isn’t recommended after a hip replacement,” says Dr. Frantz, who regularly bikes, hikes, and works out on his elliptical training machine. “It took a while to get back the full range of motion I once had, but this surgery has made all the difference in the world.”

The surgeons on the joint replacement team recommend that patients talk to their doctors to discuss potential alternatives to surgery. They also advise patients to exhaust all other options, such as modifying their activities, getting more rest, and using appropriate medications. They believe that surgery is always the last option, but that for those who need it, the prognosis with the anterior approach is excellent.

Dr. Frantz agrees. “The speed of recovery with this muscle-sparing approach was amazing.”

 

Reclaiming Her Life

For Susan Marchon, a new hip has recharged her life. In June, Marchon underwent anterior hip replacement surgery on her deteriorated right hip. With her pain significantly reduced, she is able to keep up with the demands of daily life.

“It was the best thing I ever did,” says Marchon, the executive director of the New River Valley Alcohol Safety Action Program. “It’s been a miracle. I feel like I have my life back.”

Marchon, who also had back surgery in 2011, had read about the anterior approach and knew she wanted to take that route.

Joseph Moskal, M.D., section chief of orthopaedics at Carilion Clinic, performed the procedure.

When she got home, Marchon discovered that everyday tasks were often the hardest. Wanting to help others, she created a brochure packed with advice on everything from how to put on compression stockings and going to the bathroom to organizing your home before surgery.

“These are the things I needed to be as independent as I possibly could during my recovery,” she says.

Marchon is grateful for the care she received and often recommends Dr. Moskal to others. “I’m a Dr. Moskal groupie,” she jokes. “If anyone I know has hip issues, I refer them to him.”

Surgeons trained in the anterior approach technique:

John Mann, M.D.

Joseph Moskal, M.D.

Michael Wolfe, M.D.

Karen Doss Bowman is a writer who contributes to health care publications, including the University of Virginia’s Vim & Vigor. A native of Bassett, Va., she now lives in Bridgewater.