Back to Her Roots
After Hip Replacement
Joan Benninghoff, 83, would love to tell you about her hip replacement surgery… but it may be tough to catch her at a free moment. Chances are she’s on a hike, swimming laps at the pool, tending to plants in the greenhouse, taking a German class, or any number of activities that keep her on the move at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, a continuing care retirement community.
Joan has always been an active person, and when her right hip started bothering her a little over two years ago, she initially ignored the pain. But then it started slowing her down. On a trip to Maine in 2013 for her granddaughter’s wedding, she found herself unable to join a family hike. “I’ve always been a hiker, but I got nowhere,” she says. “That’s when I knew it was time to do something.”
A Conservative Start
Her family physician sent her to Benjamin I. Chu, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon at Abington – Lansdale Hospital, who suggested that she start with conservative treatment. But physical therapy and cortisone shots didn’t help, and the pain gradually got worse. Dr. Chu then referred her to Andrew M. Star, MD, chief, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery at Abington Hospital – Jefferson Health.
Joan was unsurprised to learn from Dr. Star that the cartilage of her right hip was completely gone, and she would need surgery. “By that time, it even hurt to drive, so I knew it was really bad,” she says. She appreciated that Dr. Star took the time to explain the anterior hip replacement procedure, which would involve replacing the ball-and-socket joint of her hip with a plastic and metal implant. Accessing the hip from the front, Dr. Star uses smaller incisions, resulting in less pain, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery.
“He took out a model of a hip, described each step, and answered all my questions,” she says. “He was also very straightforward with me and told me that I would have pain from the surgery, but if I worked through it, I would get over it. I had full confidence in him.”
Committing to Surgery and Rehab
Joan’s procedure on November 10 at Abington – Lansdale Hospital went exactly as planned. Joan had spinal anesthesia and sedation rather than general anesthesia, and she woke up soon after surgery with no nausea or grogginess. Dr. Star says, “We always recommend a spinal because we feel that the patients have less discomfort and fewer side effects from anesthesia (including nausea and vomiting, problems going to the bathroom, blood clots and confusion).”
She was able to put full weight on her hip by the afternoon, and she left the hospital after just one night. “Joan contributed to her recovery by being active and willing to participate fully in her post-op program,” says Dr. Star. “She was always ready to get up and do her exercises and to get back to normal activities as soon as possible.”
Four days later, she started physical therapy at the Foulkeways facility. Things were going well for a week, she thought, as the muscle soreness from her surgery gradually faded. Then, during her second week, she realized something as she watched herself in the facility’s mirrors.
“I was taking these tiny, tentative baby steps,” she says. “I told my therapist, and she took me out in the hall and told me, ‘Just try walking as though you’ve never had surgery.’” Encouraged, Joan stretched out her legs and strode confidently down the hall. “I hadn’t realized that I could do that,” she says. “It felt wonderful.”
“We strongly believe that patients do the best in their home environments doing as many normal activities as possible,” says Dr. Star. “For anyone who has spent a day sick in bed, it is obvious that when you finally get out or bed you feel tired, stiff and sore. Our bodies were meant to be up and moving.”
Since then, Joan hasn’t slowed down. She’s back to hiking and swimming, and this Spring, she plans to join her family for hiking in the Pocono Mountains and her Foulkeways friends for kayaking in a local lake. Joan co-chairs the greenhouse committee at Foulkeways.
She recommends that anyone considering hip surgery find a doctor in whom they have confidence and commit themselves to the necessary rehabilitation after surgery. “The muscle pain that you feel afterwards is nothing like the pain you feel before surgery,” she says. “You can get through it. I never expected to feel this great.”
For more information about orthopaedic and spine services at Abington – Jefferson Health, visit our website, Jefferson.edu/AbingtonBone, or call us at 215-481-BONE.
For a referral to an Abington orthopaedic surgeon or neurosurgeon, call 215-481-MEDI.