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Orthopedic Treatments to Keep Bodies Active

Written by Shawn Palmer, MD on February 10, 2014

Aches and pains aren’t what they used to be. Discover some of the incredible new advancements that are helping to shorten recovery times and reduce the need for invasive surgeries.

But aches and pains aren’t what they used to be. Thanks to incredible advances in orthopedic medicine, surgery is no longer the first, or only, option for repairing injured and worn-out joints. When it’s needed, surgery is increasingly noninvasive, allowing patients to return quickly to their active lifestyles.

One example is hip joint replacement, a procedure that’s benefitting from a significant new surgical technique called anterior hip replacement. It’s a revolutionary method adopted early on by Dr. Shawn W. Palmer, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and fellowship-trained expert in joint replacement surgery at the Midwest Bone & Joint Institute, with locations in Algonquin, Barrington, Elgin and Geneva.

“We’re taking a totally different approach to the traditional hip replacement procedure at Presence St. Joseph Hospital,” Palmer says. “It isn’t just a change in surgical approach – it’s a change in the approach to surgery. We are dramatically shortening recovery time from months to days, minimizing blood loss and getting patients back to the lifestyle they thought was lost.”

The anterior approach involves lying patients on their backs and performing the hip replacement through a small incision, often 3 or 4 inches long, on the front of the thigh. Unlike other hip procedures, other supporting tissues are left intact and no muscles are cut, allowing for immediate stability and a faster return to activity. Palmer says that the patient position allows the use of an X-ray guidance system, so physicians can ensure a more accurate leg length and implant position, before concluding an operation.

“A special operating table is required for this procedure, and its cost is substantial,” Palmer says. “A team must be trained, and most hospitals won’t support an anterior approach hip replacement program without expert surgeons who perform a high volume of this surgery in a safe manner. Presence St. Joseph Hospital, in Elgin, is one of only a few centers in the Chicago area to make this substantial investment, for the benefit of our patients.”

As more patients demand faster recovery, more hospitals will take notice, and more surgeons will learn the technique, says Palmer.

Following the 30- to 45-minute surgery, most patients can walk with minimal assistance within a few hours, and many go home the same day. Palmer points out that, unlike traditional posterior hip joint replacement, there are no restrictions to sitting, sleeping, stair-climbing, crossing one’s legs or sleeping on one’s side. Blood loss is minimal, and transfusions are unnecessary. Patients may begin showering the day after surgery and drive within a short period of time. Many patients return to work within two weeks of surgery.

“Experience becomes the difference,” says Palmer. “I have used the anterior approach for more than a decade in other procedures, but first began using it for hip replacement in 2010. Since that time, I have completed more than 500 anterior replacements, and have become a national instructor for the technique. Surgeons come from across the country to learn how the procedure is performed. I truly believe we provide a superior patient experience, when compared to traditional surgery.”

Best of all, this procedure isn’t unique to certain patients.

“Nearly all patients who are candidates for a hip replacement may have an anterior approach procedure,” Palmer says. “There are no restrictions for age, size, activity level or gender.”
It’s especially practical for patients concerned about their independence.

“There are many patients who may benefit from a hip replacement who often choose to suffer because they’re worried about being moved into a nursing home for rehabilitation, or are concerned about how they are going to cope at home,” Palmer says. “Because the anterior method virtually eliminates restrictions and dramatically reduces recovery time, they can reclaim their active lifestyles without fear of losing their freedom.”

As seen from northwestchicagoland.northwestquarterly.com.

Dr. Shawn W. Palmer is a board certified orthopedic surgeon. In addition, he completed a year of highly specialized fellowship training in complex reconstructive joint surgery at the world-renowned University of Chicago Bone and Joint Replacement Center.