A recent procedural change in hip replacement surgery allows recipients to heal faster than those who make use of older methods, say two area doctors.
The anterior approach to hip replacement surgery has been done for about six months at West Branch Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Inc., 699 Rural Ave., Suite 101, Dr. Mark A. Rackish said.
By using the anterior approach of a 5-inch incision through the front, rather than an 8-inch incision through the back, no muscles are cut, he said.
"It's less discomfort and a little quicker recovery," Rackish said.
He had about six or seven patients who had one hip surgery done using the standard way and then the second hip done using the new way.
"Almost all of them said it allowed them to get better quicker," he said.
The length of each patient's stay in the hospital is different, but, on average, people who have the anterior surgery are in the hospital two to three days. Those who take the older approach stay in the hospital for about three to five days. The time on crutches can be as few as one or two weeks for those who have hips replaced from the front, compared to four to six weeks for those who have it done through the back.
Using the anterior approach began at West Branch because the doctors kept hearing about its popularity, Dr. John H. Bailey said.
Like with other fields in medicine, improvements constantly are being made for better efficiency, Rackish said.
"In general, principles are the same," he said. "The results have been good the last 30 years. The changes now are trying to get people to recover more rapidly."
As the field evolves, Bailey predicted the emphasis will be on getting hip and knee replacements to last longer by using different prosthetics that work better together.
About 80 percent of the hip replacements last for 25 to 30 years, he said. It is impossible to know for sure how long they can last because by the time they wear out, a newer material is available that improves the durability.
"Improvements suggest they should be able to get out that far," Rackish said.
Getting hip surgery is "probably the biggest bang for the buck," Rackish said. He sees people who are fairly disabled be able to do what they previously did after having the surgery.
"It's highly successful," Bailey said. "Very few don't do well."
Bailey said he has done about 600 hip replacements while Rackish said he has completed about 1,500.
As the population ages, the number of surgeries performed has increased. Those who usually receive the surgery are 40 years or older, with arthritis in the hip.
West Branch is adjacent to Susquehanna Health, which now offers a joint replacement and spine unit on the sixth floor of the Susquehanna Tower. A therapy gym also helps patients with simulated areas for instruction of daily living.
"They're letting us be more progressive," Bailey said. "It lends itself to patients getting out."