Forty-nine year old Physio Remedies total hip replacement (THR) patient Ivan describes how his knowledge of the modern day advances in hip replacement technology, famous sportsmen and women that had undergone THR surgery and the first class physiotherapy and referral advice he received from Sarah Lawson and Nick Smith of Physio Remedies enabled him to make the decision to have surgery early and start realising the benefits of doing so – PART 3, preparing for surgery, the operation, rehab and today’s update.
Preparing for surgery (Hint - Find a Buddy If You Can)
The date for my operation was set and I spent the preceding weeks preparing myself for what the immediate days after the operation would be like and also thinking through what my rehab plan would be like.
It is very personal choice as to how much information you want to know about any operation. For me though, I thought since I was going to have a new body part to keep me company hopefully for the rest of my life, I should find out at least what it was going to be. A visit to Professor Haddad’s clinic for my pre-assessment provided all the information I needed.
The femoral head (the round top of the hip bone) was to be cut off, shaving off the cartilage inside the socket. A titanium shell would then be placed into the socket and a titanium stem would be fitted inside my thigh bone. Finally, a plastic liner would be placed inside the socket, like a washer, and a ceramic head fitted on the femoral component. The stem in my femur would have special coating that would create a “biologic” fixation between my femur bone and the implant, which would prevent weakening of the bone in my femur around the stem. It all seemed very high tech and I was impressed by the apparent strength and robustness of the materials.
The other really helpful thing I did, again more through chance than real planned intention was that I found myself a ‘THR buddy’. I learnt at a work seminar that an old colleague of mine had only just been through a THR six months previously. Although ten years older than me he was a wonderful source of encouragement and advice in the weeks that led up to the operation on what to expect, what to take to hospital and what the immediate days afterwards would be like.
Finally, symptomatic with my nature and character I could not help myself writing down with the help of Sarah Lawson and Nick Smith a rehab plan (see the chart below). Maybe this sort of level of detail is not for everyone but having milestones and targets certainly helped me on the road to recovery post-op. They talked through the restrictions that I would need to adhere to to start with while my new joint settled down post-op, returning to a normal daily routine, taking up gentle sports and finally getting back to impact loading sports.
The Operation and Rehab Journey (Hint - prepare for small steps)
The details of the operation are beyond the scope of this article save for saying that I was unlucky to have some form of psycho-symptomatic shutdown of the muscles in my operative leg which slowed me to getting back on my feet in the hours and days following the surgery. It was also shocking to be on crutches and having to relearn to walk but the physios at Physio Remedies were absolutely brilliant. Nick Smith ‘absorbed’ my frustration at literally not being able to run before I could walk. Throughout the early part of 2017 he gradually guided me and supported me along my rehab journey from taking baby steps without the crutches, to isometric and proprioception exercises in their gym, to strengthening exercises using the multi-gym, to more advanced intensive work to rebuild the muscle bulk that I had lost as a result of the operation.
I will always remember that one day when my ‘Trendelenburg gait’ (an abnormal gait caused by post-operative weakness of the abductor muscles of the lower limb, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) had disappeared and Nick saying to me in his broad Yorkshire accent “look at that Ivan, you have got your swagger back”. I certainly had.
Today’s Update (Hint - take the risk – millions have and will continue to do so)
As I conclude, the discomfort, pain and anxiety of those pre-op days are but a faint memory. So too are the nine months of rehabilitation. I can’t even imagine how I would be today if I had not taken the leap of faith to get on with it. I completed my first sprint triathlon on the 17th of September 2017, nine months after the surgery.
Since the operation I have kited in Mauritius, windsurfed in Maui, Hawaii, skied in Kitzbuhel, Austria and returned to a life of sport. The guys at Physio Remedies have recommended that I don’t ever run a marathon again – there are THR patients that unbelievably do as well as even ultra-marathons and IronMan triathlons – but I am ok with that.
It is easy, having ‘come out of the other side’, to say this but the benefits far out weigh the risks of an operative nature.
My top five tips to aid a successful total hip replacement are:
Get the best advice.
Consult and work as early as possible with Phyisos who are deeply experienced with THR rehabilitation such as Physio Remedies.
Research as much or little as you need about the operation.
Find a THR buddy.
Set some goals to help you on the road to recovery.
Finally, with the recent arrival of my first child, Molly, it has become apparent that I made the right decision to have the THR early. As she grows up, although there is always a chance in ten to fifteen years’ time that I will need a revision to the THR, I can guarantee you that she will never know how the early onset of hip arthritis nearly killed me but I really have lived to die another day.