New approach to hip surgery

January 8, 2009 4:02:47 PM PST
People with chronic hip pain can't even get into a car without wincing. A new approach to surgery repairs the hip instead of replacing it is putting patients on the fast track to recovery.

At 34, Sarah Harris found out hip problems can hit at any age.

"The pain was a shooting pain down the front of my thigh. It almost as though something was digging down into my thigh," she said.

The pain came from a condition called impingement syndrome. The cartilage at her hip joint was torn. Every time she moved, the cartilage would get pinched in the hip socket. In the past patients had to suffer until a hip replacement was required. Thankfully for Sarah, times are changing.

"with the pain the way it was, I didn't want to wait," she said.

Dr. Mark Lawler is one of a few surgeons repairing hips with an arthroscopic procedure. He makes two small incisions, inserts a scope and other tools and sews the cartilage back in place.

"Then we go down and there's some boney impingement of which we actually remove some boney spurs off the cup and the neck of the femur, hopefully resolving the problem," he explained.

Compared to a hip replacement, the arthroscopic approach requires no hospital stay, patients don't need to take blood thinners and recovery time is nearly cut in half.

"It's a same-day surgery. People come and go," he said.

Five weeks after surgery, Sarah is learning what it's like to live without pain. "I feel fabulous? absolutely fabulous," she said.

Dr. Lawler says impingement syndrome is an underlying cause of arthritis in the hip. Having this procedure earlier in life may prevent people from having problems in the future. The arthroscopic procedure has fewer risks than open surgery or a hip replacement and also costs 50-percent less.

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