INNOVATIONS IN HIP REPLACEMENT SURGERY
Dust Off Your Running Shoes, Yoga Mat—Even Your Hockey Stick
Last year, hip pain forced Rhoda Pitcher to plan each day around her limitations. She couldn’t walk without limping, couldn’t run to catch an important flight and avoided her favorite yoga poses. Hip replacement surgery with Dr. Richard A. Berger changed her life.
Dr. Berger, assistant professor of orthopedics at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, uses an innovative, minimally invasive approach to hip replacement, which he helped to create, that results in less pain and a more stable joint. Patients who undergo this new anterior hip surgery have an easier short-term recovery and a better long-term prognosis without the usual worry of dislocation. They leave the hospital within a few hours walking on their own, return to work much quicker—most within a week—and can play their favorite sports within weeks with no limitations.
“Before my surgery, everything required strategic thinking,” says Pitcher, 61, managing partner of a management consulting company that bears her name. “In February 2015, I was in Hawaii on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and I couldn’t walk more than a block without intense pain. I was taking significant amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the pain because otherwise I couldn’t function.”
Pitcher suffered from bone-on-bone arthritis, avascular necrosis (death of bone tissue due to lack of blood supply) and hip dysplasia. After 13 years of pain in her left hip, eight years of pain in her right hip and several nonsurgical treatments with little relief, Pitcher was ready for hip replacement surgery.
A Pioneer in Minimally Invasive Procedures
As soon as Pitcher met Dr. Berger, she was impressed by his expertise. She knew it would be worth it to travel from her home in Seattle to his office in Chicago for the procedures.
Dr. Berger is one of only a few surgeons nationwide who performs hip replacement surger y using this new anterior hip approach, called a modified Watson- Jones anterior approach, a technique he helped develop. Dr. Berger, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from MIT, also invented and holds a patent on instruments used in the procedure. Only 2% of hip replacement surgeries are done with this method, which avoids cutting muscles, ligaments or tendons. In the last decade, Dr. Berger has replaced about 5,000 hips using this approach.
“We remove the old hip in little pieces and slip the new hip in, a lso in pieces,” Dr. Berger says. “I assemble the new hip in the patient like a ship in a bottle. When we’re done, no muscles, ligaments or tendons have been cut.”