TRH offering alternative hip surgery

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By Calen McKinney



She can run, walk up and down steps and keep up with her grandchildren. And Debra Waldron hasn't been able to do that in a long time.

In August, Waldron had hip replacement surgery. Thanks to an alternative way to do the surgery, she was back at work in seven weeks and walking the day Dr. Galen Weiss performed the procedure.

And Weiss, who came to Taylor Regional Hospital about three years ago, is one of just a few orthopedic surgeons in Kentucky who are performing the procedure, which is now being taught to medical students.

Weiss' practice offers all forms of orthopedic surgery. He came to Campbellsville three years ago after completing his residency training in Louisville.

Waldron, 54, is office manager at Weiss' office. She became a nurse in 1979, so she said she has seen many people have hip replacement surgery.

The new method isn't really a new way to perform hip replacements, Weiss said, but it has only been used in America for about 15 years. The anterior method was first done in France in the 1940s, but didn't come to the United States until the 1990s.

Weiss said the anterior method is performed in larger cities like Elizabethtown, Lexington and Louisville, but not in many smaller cities. TRH is one of the very few hospitals in small towns offering the procedure, he said.

TRH CEO Jane Wheatley said the new procedure - named the anterior method - has proven very successful.

"They're going to surgery and that afternoon they're up," she said.

Using the anterior method, a surgeon replaces a person's hip by approaching the hip from a person's front instead of their side and moving the thigh muscle over instead of cutting and spreading it.

Weiss said the new method is possible because of a special table that allows a doctor to have their patient lying on their back. This position allows doctors to have a much clearer path to the hip. In the other methods, Weiss said, there is a much greater chance that the hip could come out of socket.

The new method, he said, also uses an x-ray machine, which shows him exactly where to place the new hip. And because the incision to reach the hip is much smaller and a person's leg isn't spread open like in other methods, the recovery time is substantially shorter.

Weiss underwent training to perform the anterior method and says he will only do hip replacements using this procedure. He said it allows patients to become active much quicker and alleviates the pain they were experiencing immediately.

Since beginning to perform the procedures earlier this year, Weiss has replaced about 20 hips using the method. And he says the patients have all recovered well and quickly.

"It's beyond what I thought."

His best success story, Weiss said, is an 85-year-old woman. The day after her surgery, he said, the woman stood by herself.

"You just don't see that often," he said.

Weiss said other hip replacement procedures require that a person not bend certain ways or do specific movements after surgery. But with the anterior approach, there aren't any restrictions.

And, Weiss said, with previous procedures, hip replacement patients have had to use a walker for a few weeks and then a cane. They then were able to walk, but with a slight limp.

While Weiss said he believes it's still a good idea to use a walker for about two weeks following surgery, patients who have had an anterior hip replacement are able to walk by themselves the day following surgery.

And that is one of the reasons Waldron finally decided to have hip replacement surgery on Aug. 26. She was in recovery just 20 minutes and was able to walk again that same day. And the only pain she experienced was from the initial cut made so Weiss could get inside her thigh. Her hip pain was gone.

"I've been amazed at how quickly they've bounced up," Weiss said.

Waldron said she had experienced hip pain for the past couple years. She tried many forms of treatment, but they only gave her short-term relief.

Waldron said her quality of life began to suffer. She couldn't walk up and down steps and people noticed she wasn't getting around well.

"You don't really feel like doing anything," she said. "I couldn't tie my shoes."

But after her surgery, Waldron said, her friends, family members and co-workers noticed an immediate change in her step. She said being able to play with her grandchildren again has been wonderful.

"My grandson said, 'Look, Meme can run.'" Waldron said. "Then he asked, 'Well, if you can run, can you learn to play soccer?'"

Weiss said the response to the new procedure has been great. He has hosted some free community seminars and offered free hip screenings last Friday as a way to help residents learn about it.

And Weiss said offering the procedure in Campbellsville is a good way to help Taylor County residents and those who live in nearby counties.

"Before you had to travel a decent distance to find somebody who would even do this," he said.

Weiss said he believes the anterior method is superior, though some doctors say other methods have the same results. But Weiss said he encourages patients to look at their quality of life 15 years after surgery.

With other methods, Weiss said, patients might have discomfort because their new hip might move. But with the anterior method, the new hip won't do that.

"It's working," he said.

Weiss said hip replacements aren't just for older patients. He said younger people are having them done when necessary to ensure they have a long and active life.

"There's really nothing you can't do after hip replacement."

Waldron agrees.

"It's been such a life changer for me."