The evolution of total hip replacement technology means more young adults than ever are moving forward with the surgery. New techniques and instruments result in more active futures for the recipients.
But for years, a hip fusion was the treatment of choice for young adults. Complications included lower back pain and arthritis in the knee opposite of the affected hip.
“The severe groin pain would subside following surgery, but hip function remained limited,” says Henry Finn, M.D., medical director of the Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss; chairman of surgery at Weiss; and professor of surgery at the University of Chicago.
Dr. Finn adds, “Young men and women today won’t accept a hip fusion. They want to get rid of the pain, and return to normal motion and function. Now we have improved implants and bearings, along with our surgical experience, to grant their wishes.”
A HIP REVOLUTION
An estimated 332,000 total hip replacement surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year, and that number is growing, including among the younger set. Most orthopedic surgeons wait to recommend total hip replacements for patients 45 and older. But there are exceptions.
“If people are debilitated and in severe pain and willing to accept the risk of surgery, total hip replacement at a younger age now is a viable option,” Dr. Finn notes.
Today, many hip implants last 20 to 30 years, helping to delay future surgeries for younger patients who are typically more active, and wear down their implants more quickly than older patients. Surgeons estimate this new generation of hip replacement patients should expect possibly two revision surgeries in their lifetime versus five.
Still, total hip replacement surgery comes with risks, but this new generation is willing to accept those risks.
Andrew Dadisman, 23, of suburban Minneapolis, is among them. This University of Northwestern-Saint Paul math major, now studying to be an actuary, calculated his risks and took the necessary steps to heal his failing hip.
“I couldn’t continue with life as it was. The possibility of living without deep groin and posterior pain, and its crippling effects, far outweighed the risk of surgical infection,” Andrew says.
After more than 10 years of debilitating pain, which started with an infection in his hip at age 11, and various treatments to try to relieve it, a unique approach got him back in action.
“Mr. Dadisman’s pelvic bone weakened over the years due to an infection years earlier. His hip socket became shallow, a condition called acetabular dysplasia,” Dr. Finn explains. “Hip replacement for a man his age is still somewhat controversial, and the fact that he had a previous infection in both his pelvis and hip socket made his surgery an even riskier proposition.”
NEW HIP, NEW LIFE
Following detailed preoperative testing and discussion, Andrew understood the risks and underwent two separate surgeries to reach his current condition: nearly pain-free and walking well.
“For the first time in years I feel free, free to live as an adult my age,” Andrew says.
He has found balance in his recovery regime, limiting his risks of “overdoing it” with certain activities. He’s learned to take on just enough exercise and physical therapy to keep the muscles surrounding his hip strong. He’s also returning to his love for music, playing piano and guitar, and focusing on more upper body activities.
Last year, Andrew says he was “filled with anxiety and frustration” because of his persistent pain. But he sensed his situation was going to change. He held onto that hope, and within a year the aspiring actuary received a more certain future of a healthy hip for decades to come.
He hopes his story will inspire other young adults in similar situations anticipate better days to come. He’s thankful he found the right surgeon to handle his unique condition.