Total Hip Replacement: The Care You Need, Close to Home

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Evan J. Zahner, MDby Evan J. Zahner, MD

Recent advances in orthopedic surgery have made the experience of undergoing a Total Hip Replacement much different than it was even a decade ago. Patients walk sooner, go home faster, and return to activities they had been unable to participate in previously because of pain. As an orthopedic surgeon, I work closely with patients to avoid the need for surgery. Receiving anti-inflammatory injections into the hip and actively participating in physical therapy can help you gain a degree of control over your pain. Sometimes, the recommendation is for surgery. I would like to use this article to educate people on what to expect if they are considering a Total Hip Replacement.

Although I am not able to make promises about how long a Total Hip Replacement will last, I can tell you that recent studies indicate that patients who have the surgery experience pain relief for longer periods than they ever had before. Historically, we used to educate patients to hope for 10 years of relief after a Total Hip Replacement. Now, expectations are considerably longer.

The techniques used to perform the surgery have become so refined that incision sizes have been reduced from a range of 6 to 8 inches to closer to 4 inches. This minimizes the tissue damage and the pain that results from the surgery, allowing you to walk sooner. Prior to surgery, I like to coach my patients to walk without a limp. Sometimes this requires patients to use a cane so they can avoid learning a limp that will continue to express itself, even after they have recovered from the surgery. A learned limp can be difficult to unlearn.

Often, patients are surprised to hear that we will ask you to walk on the same day as the surgery. The sooner we get you out of bed and walking around, the better it is for your hip, your circulation, your lungs, and your pain control. A team of nurses and physical therapists will be working with me to coordinate your care and to reduce the risk of setbacks.

Another surprise for patients that is different from Total Hip Replacement surgery performed years ago relates to the amount of time you have to spend in the hospital. A decade ago, patients would be in the hospital for an average of 5 days and then they might visit a rehabilitation hospital for close to a week before going home. Now, patients are often well enough to go directly home 2 to 3 days after the surgery. You will not be on your own at home because our team of nurses and physical therapists will continue to work with you. They will come directly to your home to make sure that your transition is smooth.

Ultimately, the goal is to return you to pain-free function and allow you the opportunity to participate in a low-impact exercise program without discomfort. My recommendation for all patients who have hip pain that is preventing them from doing what they want to do is to come in and see me. I am happy to talk you through the options that are available to you.

About the Author: Evan Zahner, MD is a Board Certified orthopedic Surgeon who earned his medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He completed his medical training at St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital Center and his orthopedic residency at the New York Orthopaedic Hospital at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. Dr. Zahner recently joined Agility Orthopedics where he will continue his service to local communities in the fields of general orthopedics, sports medicine, and total joint replacements. At present, Dr. Zahner is affiliated with the Melrose Wakefield Hospital, the Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford, and the Winchester Hospital. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Zahner, please call (781) 279-7040.