Art of Aging: Hip replacement recovery

VOORHEES, N.J. (WPVI) -- Hip replacement surgery used to be seen as a tedious, but necessary procedure, requiring weeks on a walker and months of rehab. But now computer imaging is changing all that.

At Virtua Hospital's Joint Replacement Institute in Voorhees, New Jersey, young and old are getting new hips after a CAT scan generates a computer model for the surgery.

Dr. Greg Klingenstein, Orthopedic Surgeon at Virtua Joint Replacement Institute said, "Using a CAT scan I'm able to get a three dimensional model of a patient's specific anatomy weeks ahead of the procedure. And I can actually have a picture in the operating room to show us how everything is supposed to look."

Employing this new technology, the operation is easier for the surgical team, but also for the patient.

Dr. Klingenstein said, "The therapists start working with you the afternoon of surgery. People get off a walker or a cane anywhere between one and three weeks. Pain control is also much better."

Barbara Cook of Mt. Laurel has had both hips done. Years ago, her first hip required 4 days in the hospital, and she had to use a walker for weeks.

"The difference between that experience and this other one, is night and day," said Cook.

Dr. Klingenstein's team had Barbara out of the hospital the next day and in rehab two days later.

"I used the cane for about a week. I think I took the pain pills for 2 or 3 days," added Cook.

Dr. Joseph Vernace of Main Line Health said today's implants easily last 30 years - twice as long as earlier ones.

So patients shouldn't wait till they are seriously hobbled to get help.

"I don't look at age, I look at need," Dr. Vernace.

He continued, "If someone comes in with a severely arthritic hip, and their quality of life is not what it needs to be, we talk to them about fixing it."

And when it's done, doctors hear a common refrain.

"They say I don't know why I waited so long, I should have had this sooner," stated Dr. Vernace.

"There's no reason to have that kind of pain. When it can be done so quickly and you can be back to normal so quickly," said Cook.

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