Don Batten’s Hip Resurfacing with Dr. Gross 2010
July 7, 2013
Thanks Dr. Gross for giving me my life back! In 2006 I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my left hip. I suspect a road bike fall about 6 months prior was at least a contributor. I had been a runner for many years, averaging 45 miles a week until the osteo produced too much pain and I stopped. Hiking and backpacking the Smokies were my favorite weekend recreation activities with 20+ mile day hikes and weekend backpacks. That too became too painful.
I started looking into hip replacement surgery in 2008. My brother-in-law had recently had the hip resurfacing surgery also called hip surface replacement (HSR). I started locally with perhaps the top orthopedic clinic in Knoxville where I learned that resurfacing was not an option locally. While total hip replacement had a longer record of good success than resurfacing, I was most concerned about the revision surgery. I liked the option of a THR should the resurfacing fail. I expanded my search to other areas. My brother-in-law had his resurfacing performed by Dr. Edwin Su but insurance was a problem. I searched the internet and read numerous articles. The Surface Hippy website offered numerous articles as well as personal experiences. I read from several sources that a surgeon’s skill and experience is paramount when it comes to resurfacing.
It was during this search that I learned about Dr. Thomas Gross with Midlands Orthopedic in Columbia, SC. Dr. Gross had well over 1000 HSR surgeries at that time and had written numerous papers as well as giving presentations at professional conferences. He was also involved in research, product development and offered training to other surgeons. His website was perhaps the most thorough physician’s website that I have ever seen.I downloaded application forms from the Midlands site, got the preliminary health exams including x-rays and a bone density exam. I submitted this in early 2009. I asked for a consultation and he actually called me and we spoke for a few minutes about my concerns. Later I spoke with Nancy at Midlands and asked if she had heard of Dr. Su and her response was that that Dr. Su had received some of his training from Dr. Gross. That did it!
My bone density exam revealed that my bone density in my hip area was low and fell in the range considered osteopenia. This was bothersome but Dr. Gross seemed unconcerned and said it would simply mean a longer recovery. I was also concerned about my age as many of the papers and insurance company policies placed the cutoff age at 60 and I was 59 at the time. Again Dr. Gross was reassuring. It seemed more an insurance issue than a medical issue.
Insurance was a problem. Even though HSR was not available by any of the HMO participants, I had to appeal several times over the last half of 2009 and still did not get a written approval on the 5th appeal. Dr. Gross through his website warned as much about dealings with HMOs. During my company’s open enrollment, I changed from an HMO plan to a national carrier with Dr. Gross and Providence Hospital listed as participants and the surgery was scheduled for February of 2010. I would have a cementless HSR with no screws.
Providence Hospital Northeast in Columbia provided a great experience. From check in the early morning of the surgery to check out the morning of the 3rd day was as good as I could ask. Post-op discomfort was almost non-existent. Meals were good and care excellent. Perhaps my biggest problem was lack of a bowel movement which was remedied before I left. My wife is a nurse and she was amazed at how clean and pleasant the hospital was. She asked about infections resulting from surgery and was told they had experienced none.
My recovery was a bit longer than usual. I spent an extra 2 weeks on crutches and my walking and other exercises were scaled back and lasted about 2 weeks longer than for someone with normal bone density. My 1st follow up appointment was 6 weeks after surgery and all was well. My only concern during my recovery was swelling which lasted several weeks, well after the 1st follow up appointment. My at home recovery program was formulated by Dr. Gross. He did not want me to use a physical therapist which seemed odd, but he explained that his recovery program yielded best results and a physical therapist might want to pursue a different program. I stayed with the exercises, walking and added swimming and some weight lifting. It was not long before the leg press strength in my left leg equaled that of my right leg. In October of 2010 at 8 months post-op, I took my 1st good day hike, about 9 miles and 3500 feet vertical to the Rocky Top peak on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. No problems and no pain! I have since gone on numerous day hikes in the 10 to15 mile range and one 4 day backpack. At 3+ years post-op, I have resumed road biking and an occasional light run/walk. I will probably not resume a serious running program. I’d rather hike, bike, swim, lift and walk. I hope that this HSR will last 20 years. My 2 year post-op exam was handled by having x-rays and blood work taken locally and submitting to Dr. Gross. Nothing was revealed to cause concern. I have had no reactions from metal ions which were deemed acceptable by Dr. Gross.
Again, thanks so much to Dr. Gross, Nancy, Lee, Gail, and all of the Midlands staff as well as Shonda, Tammy, Betsy, Nick, Nate, Daniel, Brook and Elizabeth and the rest of the Providence staff who made my stay so comfortable.