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Mary's New Momentum

Thanks to an innovative surgical approach at Abington Memorial Hospital, Mary had both hips replaced while barely missing a lap around her daily activities. She's back to teaching at Arcadia University, conducting yoga classes, and writing for fitness magazines.

Mary Nearpass 

With conventional hip replacement surgery, the 52-year-old mother of four would have faced a minimum of six weeks recovery for each hip, limitations on hip flexion, more pain and a lengthy rehabilitation.

Instead, the Willow Grove resident has no pain and is following a simple rehab regimen at home. The difference? She chose Abington Memorial Hospital to have her surgeries.

Andrew M. Star, M.D., chief of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and director of the musculoskeletal program at Abington Memorial Hospital, studied under Joel Matta, M.D., the surgeon who pioneered the "anterior" or front hip replacement. Dr. Star has performed more than 200 of these minimally invasive anterior replacements with great success. Mary's problems originally stemmed from a bad back due to childhood scoliosis (curvature of the spine). Two separate car accidents resulted in herniated discs in her back and neck. Her body began compensating for the pain.

"I chose the best doctor to
perform my surgery. I had total
trust in my surgeon."

Without realizing it, she began leaning to one side as she walked. This pressured both hip joints unmercifully. Over time, the cushion between the ball and socket of each hip wore away. Bone grated against bone every time she took a step.

"With chronic pain, you look fine from the outside," she says. "But inside, it takes a terrible toll on your body and your outlook."

Because her scoliosis had advanced to such a degree, back surgery was out of the question. So her orthopaedist referred her to Dr. Star.

Dr. Star explains, "Traditionally, surgeons use a posterior (back) or side approach to removing the diseased hip. However, this involves detaching the muscle and ligaments from the pelvis or femur (upper leg bone) during surgery. The resulting replacement requires at least six to eight weeks healing time, restrictions on bending the hip and more pain and scarring. With the anterior approach, we make an incision in the natural interval between the gluteal muscles to reach the hip joint. In this way, the most important muscles, tendons and ligaments for hip function are left undisturbed, eliminating pain and allowing for a much faster recovery."

A patient can immediately bend his or her new hip freely, and bear weight on the joint as soon as is comfortable with few if any restrictions. They participate in physical therapy immediately and rarely need outpatient rehabilitation after their procedure.

Mary says, "In 2009, my Mother's Day present to myself was a left hip replacement. I was back swimming and doing yoga in four weeks. "Five and a half months later, I had my right hip done."

Dr. Star adds, "Mary's right hip was more complicated, as we needed to lengthen her leg in the process. Her scoliosis had shortened her leg by an inch and a half. We were able to position her new hip joint at an angle that balanced her legs, thus relieving the pressure and pain she felt."

"People asked me if I was nervous, having two such complex procedures virtually back to back," Mary recalls. "But I wasn't worried."

"I had total trust in Dr. Star," she continues. The brief recovery time has helped her keep up with the needs of her children, ranging in age from eight to 24, and return to work even more quickly.

"It's important for me to live life for my kids, too," she concludes. Judging by the amount of activities she has scheduled in a single week, it would appear she's getting along swimmingly.

For more information about the Orthopaedic and Spine Institute, call 215-481-BONE.