Hip replacement surgery helped Melissa Young regain her mobility and her livelihood.
By Susan Tulino
Over the years, Melissa Young experienced quite a bit of trauma to her right hip. After being hit from behind while her foot was on the brake three times in an unlucky series of car accidents, followed by a bad fall, her right hip had been through enough trauma that it was limiting her mobility and affecting her quality of life.
Melissa was hesitant to pursue a hip replacement, however. At 52, she was nervous that getting one so early would mean another procedure later in life. But when the pain became so bad that walking a few steps brought tears to her eyes, Melissa knew she needed the procedure.
Doctors recommend hip replacements for a number of reasons. Repeated trauma, acute injury, arthritis or genetic conditions can all lead to severe hip pain that warrants replacement. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) estimates 300,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the U.S.
On January 21, 2019, Melissa underwent a total replacement of her right hip at Novant Health UVA Prince William Medical Center, done via posterior procedure by W. Bartley Hosick, MD, an orthopedic surgeon. There are many different surgical approaches used in hip arthroplasty, posterior being the most common, but a well-done surgery by any approach will be successful.
“In a total hip replacement, the damaged bone and surrounding cartilage are removed, and prosthetics are inserted in their place to rebuild the ‘ball-and-socket joint’ that enables movement,” said Dr. Hosick. “Components typically include a metal implant inserted into the femur attached to a metal or ceramic ball that replicates the joint. A titanium socket is inserted into the pelvis with a plastic spacer to enable a smooth gliding surface.”
Melissa spent the first six days sleeping in a reclining sitting position on her couch and took steps with the aid of a walker. She had two in-home physical therapy sessions and was pleasantly surprised by how quickly she regained mobility. When she had her first follow up with Dr. Hosick two weeks post-surgery, she was moving so quickly with her walker that she was instructed to swap it out for a cane.
“During a follow-up appointment with my primary care physician, he looked at my X-rays and commented that my hip replacement procedure was ‘textbook perfect,’” said Melissa. “There was no fracture in the bone where the titanium rod was inserted – it was healing well.”
Most hip replacement patients resume light activity and normal daily living within 2-4 weeks of surgery. A graduated walking program and hip-specific exercises prescribed by the surgeon, helps make recovery quicker and more comfortable. However, trying to take shortcuts in order to reduce recovery time increases the risk of complications, including infections, blood clots and dislocation.
“Typically, hip-replacement patients have been in pain and are eager to get their mobility back,” said Dr. Hosick. “The good news is, if they’re patient during the recovery process and trust their surgeon’s post-op instructions, they’re likely to enjoy years of renewed activity levels and pain-free movement.”
A patient’s age, general health and activity level prior to surgery also plays a role in their recovery. Melissa was active and physically fit before her injuries, a fact that both motivated her to have the surgery and aided in her recovery. Six months after surgery, she was walking at a normal pace and says most people couldn’t tell she had a hip replacement.
“I now have free range of motion in my multi-level condo,” said Melissa. “I can swim, bike and dance again. Every day is brighter because I can walk without pain.”
Melissa’s only regret? “I wish I had done it sooner.”