Row, Row Row Your Boat…
With a new total hip joint, life is but a dream for Lansdale woman
Timothea Kirchner, 65, says she’s grateful to be living at a time when medicine and science make it possible to replace the body’s joints. “If it weren’t for my total hip joint replacement surgery, I’d be spending my days in a wheelchair,” she says. Instead, Timothea will be resuming her active lifestyle that includes kayaking, golfing, walking and hiking.
Timothea was fortunate to be a candidate for a newer total hip replacement procedure known as the direct anterior approach, offered at Abington Health’s Orthopaedic & Spine Institute (OSI). This minimally invasive technique significantly reduces postoperative pain and recovery time, while making it easier to move. “I was actually up and walking the day of my surgery,” recalls Timothea.
In May 2012, the Lansdale Borough manager was referred to Orthopaedic Surgeon Jeffrey Vakil, M.D. She sought his expertise after two years of ongoing and severe pain in her groin, back, hip, knee and buttock. With a history of back and knee issues and two previous surgeries (a spinal fusion and total right knee replacement), Timothea attributed her pain to these existing problems. “But the pain kept getting worse and was really bad in my right leg,” she says.
Dr. Vakil ordered an x-ray, which revealed degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) in Timothea’s right hip. The hip joint had worn down to the point where bone was rubbing against bone and Dr. Vakil suspected it was the cause of Timothea’s pain. After conservative management failed, he recommended a total hip replacement using the direct anterior approach.
“I bonded right away with Dr. Vakil,” says Timothea. “I liked and trusted him. Since I had already exhausted all other options, I decided to have the right hip replaced.” After learning more about the new Orthopaedic & Spine Institute at Lansdale Hospital, Timothea knew it would be the best location for her surgery. “I had an experience like no other at Lansdale Hospital. It’s a small, intimate unit where there’s laughter, and the staff is upbeat and friendly. I was highly confident in the very personalized care I received.”
Prior to surgery, Timothea attended an orientation at OSI Lansdale Hospital, where she met her surgical team, including the physician assistant, nurse and anesthesiologist. “Meeting the people who would be caring for me made me feel even more secure,” says Timothea. “They listened to me and answered all my questions in advance.”
During Timothea’s direct anterior approach procedure, Dr. Vakil operated through a 3 ½-inch incision at the front of the hip. “Operating from the front, we can separate the muscles at their natural intervals, instead of cutting through them as we do with the traditional total hip replacement, where we operate from the side or back of the hip,” explains Dr. Vakil. Because the direct anterior approach allows the surgeon to replace the hip joint without detaching the muscles or tendons from the pelvis or femur, there is less postoperative pain and fewer restrictions in movement after surgery.
Recovery time is typically shorter with the anterior approach, when compared to conventional hip replacement surgery. Because no tendons are disrupted, there are no precautions or restrictions after surgery, so patients have the ability to get moving the same day as the procedure. In fact, Timothea was walking the day of her surgery and returned home from the hospital in just three days.
Because the OSI at Lansdale Hospital specializes in total joint replacement and spine care, patients at the facility are in the company of others who are undergoing similar procedures. For two days following surgery, Timothea participated in 90-minute physical therapy sessions, twice a day. She looked forward to the comfort, camaraderie and encouragement among other patients in the 18-bed, specialized unit. “During physical therapy, there would be four of us moaning, groaning and working together,” she laughs.
After discharge from the hospital, Timothea continued with outpatient physical therapy, three times a week. Just six weeks after surgery, she returned to work as Lansdale Borough manager.
Timothea has plans to visit her sister, who lives on a lake in Michigan. “I can’t wait to throw the kayak on top of my car and drive out there,” she says. “Best of all, I’ll be pain free.”