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Regaining Mobility

Patient Finds a NorthShore Orthopaedic Surgeon Who Performs Less Invasive Hip Replacements, Enabling Much Faster Recovery

When Charlotte Miller began experiencing intense pain in her left hip, she knew something was seriously wrong. Then 57 years old, Miller soon discovered that she was one of the 21 million people in the U.S. with osteoarthritis—a disease that destroys bone cartilage and can render people incapacitated.

In 2005, the Huntley, Ill., resident decided to have posterior total hip replacement surgery at an area hospital. Miller’s surgery was successful, but her three-month rehab was restrictive.

“I couldn’t flex my hip or bend down, which made it difficult to sit and stand,” Miller recalled. “I had to sleep a certain way, and I also used a walker.” Two years later when the osteoarthritis worsened on her right side, she wanted to find a better alternative to replace that hip.

Miller learned from a friend about a less invasive surgery called the anterior total hip replacement. Her research of the procedure on the Internet led her to David Beigler, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and Section Head of Trauma at NorthShore. He is one of a handful of surgeons in Illinois—fewer than 10—trained in the anterior approach.

“Charlotte did her homework,” said Dr. Beigler, who is on faculty at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “I reviewed her X-ray, which showed osteoarthritis, and we discussed the procedure.”

With the anterior technique, the surgeon approaches the hip joint from the front instead of the back or side, allowing him or her to cut between muscles without detaching them from the hip or femur. Because the key muscles remain intact, patients may have a quicker recovery, minimal pain and blood loss, reduced risk of dislocation and greater muscular stability and strength than with the posterior technique.

For the procedure, the surgeon makes a 4-inch incision, removes the damaged cartilage and reshapes the femur and pelvic hip socket to insert a new metal prosthesis. Unlike the posterior technique, the anterior approach allows the surgeon to control the procedure intraoperatively.

“The operating table with its X-ray imaging capability helps to ensure the prosthesis is aligned and inserted accurately, thereby optimizing the patient’s hip function and leg length after surgery,” Dr. Beigler added.

Miller’s surgery lasted 90 minutes. Initially, she had physical therapy, but her therapists stopped the sessions almost immediately because she was progressing so well.

“Within a few weeks, I felt great,” Miller said. “I could bend and flex just fine. I started water aerobic classes and resumed my vigorous walks. Dr. Beigler helped me move on with enjoying life.”