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Elmhurst Memorial’s direct approach solves patient’s hip problem

Staying off her feet is not really an option for ironworker Reggie Vanderpool, 51, of Melrose Park.  As one of only 1,000 women across the country in this profession, Vanderpool’s job requires her to climb tall skyscrapers and carry as much as 100 pounds at any given time.

Unfortunately, a disease called avascular necrosis (AVN) has kept her out of work for the past four years.  AVN is the lack of blood supply to the hip, which literally means that her hip bones were dying, causing extreme pain.  She initially tried hip resurfacing but that didn’t completely resolve her issues.  Fortunately for Vanderpool, an improved surgical approach called direct anterior hip replacement has her back on her feet and preparing to return to work.

“I feel like a new person,” says Vanderpool, a mother, grandmother and motorcycle enthusiast.  “These past several years have been hard because I am not a sedentary person by any means.  I am the type of person who pushes herself.  I wanted to feel better.  Even little things like playing hopscotch with my granddaughter and carrying multiple bags of groceries were difficult.”

Vanderpool found Kris Alden, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Hinsdale Orthopaedics and on the staff of Elmhurst Memorial Hospital, who has performed a couple hundred direct anterior hip procedures over the past two years.

“Almost everyone is a candidate for the direct anterior approach.  However, Reggie was relatively young to need hip surgery,” says Dr. Alden.  “The anterior approach allows the surgeon to keep the muscle tissue intact by using a smaller incision and working between the muscles and tissues.  There is no need to detach the muscles and tissue from the femur, therefore avoiding additional trauma to the tissues and decreasing dislocation percentages.”

This particular procedure enables the surgeon to operate on the anterior (front) of the leg, which is a less invasive method than the traditional posterior approach.  In comparison to traditional hip replacement surgery, which uses an eight- to 12-inch incision, the anterior approach uses a much smaller incision, three to four inches long, resulting in a small cosmetic scar.

“We also use X-rays during the operation to ensure precise placement of the implants,” says Dr. Alden.  “This results in more functional hip mechanics and equal leg length.  The patient’s hip anatomy and gait are restored, so there’s no limp.”

While some patients choose to have both hips replaced at one time, Vanderpool had her surgeries a year apart.  She had her right hip corrected in September of 2012.  While she was recovering from her first surgery, her left hip became progressively worse.  She underwent surgery on her left hip in November of 2013.

“When I came home the next day, I felt like a million bucks,” says Vanderpool.  “I started driving four days later and gave up the cane five days after surgery.  Two weeks later, I was able to travel to Denver where my husband, who is also an ironworker, was stationed for a job.  After going through rehab, I am probably at 90 percent and feel the best that I have felt in a very long time.  I am totally pain free.  It’s amazing.”

Even though people can be apprehensive and scared about hip surgery, Vanderpool says she would encourage anyone who is “tired of being broken” to undergo this procedure.  “It has changed my life.”

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