On Thursday, July 12, 2007 I had my right hip resurfaced by Dr. Edwin Su at the Hospital for Special Surgery in NYC.
First, a few things that weren’t clear to me before the surgery.
I was not supposed to take any ibuprofen for 2 weeks before surgery. I was supposed to stop taking glucosamine chondroitin a few days before surgery and no iron for a few days before surgery. So check on any medication restrictions for weeks before the surgery.
I had hoped to bring my sandals to the hospital, but they said only close toed shoes (although this still doesn’t make any sense to me and I would have liked my sandals.)
I got a short haircut before the surgery which I found helpful- less to make me hot and feel dirty.
I brought all sorts of books and things to do, but didn’t end up using any of it. Between visitors, medication, meals and exercises, there wasn’t much time left over.
An easy shift for women and easy to put on clothes are helpful for your walks around the hospital. The pre-op orientation was helpful, but oriented mainly for total hip replacement patients. (Dr. Su said they are working on a special pre-op for resurfacing patients.) I had my pre-op a few days before the surgery (because that was the only time that worked for my schedule) but it would probably have been better to have had it further ahead of the surgery so that I could prepare a few things in between.
Dr. Mayo, who is the physician Dr. Su recommends as your HSS medical doctor, does not take insurance. I had to pay her $400. Her office will file the insurance claim and you have to hope you get reimbursed. But you should be prepared to front the $400.
Laura and Christine at Dr. Su’s office are wonderful- friendly, helpful and knowledgeable.
Dr. Su was very pleasant and has an excellent reputation as a very competent surgeon. He indulged about 15 minutes of questions very pleasantly and then began to show his impatience and eventually started making his way toward the door. I ask a lot of questions and want to understand a lot about a procedure I am going to undertake, so I found this annoying. But his manner is gentle and caring. Another patient I talked to who doesn’t ask many questions, was impressed with how much time Dr. Su spent with him!
A little history: I am a 51 year old female who weighs between 145-150 pounds. I am fairly active, but not a jock. I swim, bicycle, hike and cross country ski. I began having groin pain around 4 years ago and it took quite a while to diagnose it as caused by a bad hip. I tried physical therapy, yoga acupuncture and LOTS of ibuprofen. When I had a bad reflux reaction to the ibuprofen I started investigating hip surgery. I scheduled a total hip replacement with a local doctor without doing much research or getting a second opinion. At the last moment I cancelled the surgery and began doing research. I connected with the surface hippy web page which I found enormously helpful. I decided on trying Dr. Su because I have family in NYC and he was the most convenient doctor who had done a lot of resurfacing operations and because the Hospital for Special Surgery had such a good reputation. I sent him my x-rays. He called me to talk to me about them. He thought I was a candidate, but he would need to see me to be sure. I asked his office to investigate whether I would have any problem using my insurance for the surgery. Although they were extremely friendly and helpful, it took quite a while to get the information. When it finally appeared that my Massachusetts Blue Choice would pay for it as an out of network operation I made an appointment to see Doctor Su. I had to wait several months for that appointment. I brought my brother with me to the appointment so that I could have another set of ears hearing the information. I brought a list of questions. The most helpful thing about the visit was talking to satisfied customers in the waiting room. Finally, the operation was scheduled for July 12th.
On the day of the surgery, I arrived at 6:30 for a 9 am operation. I thought I’d have lots of time to kill in the nice hospital family waiting room overlooking the East River. But I had no time to kill. I was busy from the moment I arrived until my surgery. I spoke with about 6 different people (doctor, anesthesiologist, nutritionist, hospital MD, anesthesiologist helper, …) I was reassured when Dr. Su put his initials on my right hip so as to insure that the correct hip was operated on. They decided to give me an epidural with additional sedation. At one point I thought it might be interesting to watch the surgery and only ask for an epidural. But after watching the EdHead cartoon representation of hip resurfacing on the internet I decided against it! I talked with the anesthesiologist about a previous bad experience I had had coming out of the epidural and he assured me he would give me additional sedation as the epidural wore off if I needed it. He felt the epidural was a far better choice than general anesthesia.
I was surprised to hear that Dr. Su did 7 surgeries that day (not all resurfacing!), so I was glad that I was scheduled early.
My sister-in-law who brought me to the hospital was impressed with the waiting room and the information she received when I came out of surgery.
I don’t remember much about being in the recovery room or being taken up to my hospital room, but I was in the room on the 7th floor about 1 o’clock. (I believe I asked for additional sedation in the recovery room because of how weird it felt not to be able to feel my legs.) Many rooms on the floor have a beautiful view of the river. I was disappointed to be in a room facing another building.
My leg was wrapped in a huge ace bandage. When the bandage was removed (I think the next day) I was surprised to see that the incision was about 8 inches long, starting on the side of my upper right leg and ending in the middle of my butt. The internal stitches are dissolvable and there are no stitches or staples on the outside. The incision is held together with steri-strips. (Because of this we are able to shower as soon as we get home. That was very nice.)
I was on an IV for pain killers and antibiotics. I was given some simple exercises I could do in bed and asked to use an inhaler to make sure I took deep enough breathes on a regular basis. My roommate and I helped remind each other to do our exercises.
When I switched to oral pain killers I tried to wean myself off of them. Pain regulation has been difficult for me. I keep wanting to not be taking the meds, but then needing to take them because of the pain- it often started with a headache and then moved into my hip. I got tired and cranky. When I couldn’t sleep I finally took the pain meds. I ended up taking them on and off for about two weeks. I think it would have been better to just stay on them regularly during that time.
Dr. Su visited me everyday in the hospital and called me on his day off.
I stayed at the hospital until Sunday morning- three nights in all. I saw a physical therapist each morning after the surgery. Mostly they just walked with me, gave me instructions about using the crutches and showed me how to climb the stairs. One therapist showed me a neat way to use the crutches like a cane. I put the opposite crutch down right before each foot came down. Therefore I moved one crutch at a time. I found that comfortable.
I decided to buy the toilet seat, shoe horn, picker-upper and elastic shoelaces, but really didn’t need any of them. I used the toilet seat for a while on one toilet and it was somewhat helpful, but other people in my house kept taking it off and I found it wasn’t that difficult to get down to the seat. I had a cushioned toilet in one bathroom that I found very comfortable.
I was very impressed with the cleanliness and all the care at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Nurses responded quickly to a call for help and were pleasant and knowledgeable. All the staff, from the people who cleaned the room to the person who brought the meals was pleasant and helpful. Sharing a room turned out to be a nice experience as we chatted and helped each other with little things.
All the hospital personnel who came around kept wanting me to put a pillow between my legs and do other precautions typical for a total hip replacement (and actually I heard that some other hip resurfacing doctors also recommend the typical restrictions.) As soon as I reminded them that I was Dr. Su’s patient and had had a hip resurfacing they immediately understood.
I was surprised that the patients who had a total hip replacement went home with a cane whereas hip resurfacing patients went home with two crutches which are to be used for AT LEAST a solid 3 weeks. But after watching a video of the procedure I realize how much of your body is affected by the surgery!
I was able to start walking very quickly and spent a lot of time going in circles around the hospital floor. I met another patient of Dr. Su’s who had been resurfaced right after me. I began to feel competitive with him. He said he was off the pain meds and seemed to be walking more comfortably.
I was taken home in a cab. The nurse insisted that I have a pillow for the ride home and since my family hadn’t brought one, she gave me one from the hospital. I went to my brother’s home in NYC. I thought I would recuperate there for a week, but ended up wanting to be home. I went home (near Albany NY) on Monday afternoon and recuperated there.
On Monday morning while I was still in NYC, a visiting nurse came to evaluate me. I was surprised, since Dr. Su does not recommend physical therapy until after the follow-up visit with him. When I told her I was leaving for my home upstate, she said there was no point in opening up the case if I was leaving. She answered some of my questions and was very friendly and helpful, but I was a bit unclear how she fit into the whole.
From the beginning going up and down stairs has not been a problem. The biggest difficulty is not being able to carry anything, because of using crutches. And of course not being able to drive made me a little stir crazy and not being able to swim was a supreme sacrifice for me.
I was told not to swim until my steri-strips came off and the incision was completely closed, but after 2 ½ weeks the steri-strips seem to still be solidly on! As I talked with other people who had steri-strips for different operations they all said the steri-strips stayed on much longer than the doctors expected. Finally when the scar seemed totally closed I took a swim. That was at about 3 weeks.
I seemed to have one good day and then a tired day. It was hard to tell if I was doing too much or not doing enough. I took several walks each day. I borrowed a bicycle trainer and used that a few times daily for only about 5 minutes with little tension. I did some weeding in my garden which I think was not a good idea. It put me in a very awkward position. It has been helpful to have friends come bring me food and visit, although I can easily do some simple cooking and micro-wave heating on my own. I thought I would get more work done around the house, but I find that I’m tired and unmotivated. I’m sure it’s exasperated by the heat and humidity.
Although I was told to wait until I saw Dr. Su for my follow-up visit before driving (since I had my right hip resurfaced) I began driving after 3 weeks. I felt a little nervous at first. Driving was easy. I just worried if my reaction time would be fast enough in an emergency situation. Luckily I was not tested.
A little before three weeks I graduated to using one crutch- using it like a cane. At around 4 weeks I started using a cane. At almost five weeks I went to see Dr. Su for my follow-up visit. He was impressed with my progress and my flexibility, although I was frustrated by my limp. He said I should use the cane only as I felt I needed it and would probably limp for another 4 weeks, before regaining a regular gait. He gave me five additional exercises to do and gave me a script for physical therapy, although he didn’t think I’d need much. I’m now having low back pain and neck pain, which may have nothing to do with the hip surgery, but I’m hoping the physical therapist can help me with that. Dr. Su’s office ordered me a card to use at the airport. For $50 I was able to buy a CD with all the x-rays that were taken at the Hospital for Special Surgery. I made another appointment in three months for the next check-up.
I would recommend checking over your hospital bills and your insurance payments. I spent about 5 hours talking with Blue Cross Blue Shield. They overcharged me according to the out of network cap on my policy. I got billed for the crutches and I had to fill out a reimbursement form from BC/BS since that should be included. Dr. Mayo said the reimbursement check would be sent to me, but the insurance company said it was going to her. So I have to be sure to make sure I get the money from her. Luckily I am a school teacher and have had time to check over the bills carefully and spend long times on the phone!
All in all, at five and a half weeks post surgery I am definitely glad I did it. I have no pain in the hip. I need to strengthen those muscles cut by the surgery and those underutilized by years of inactivity because of the hip pain. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and am looking forward to walking without a limp and without pain (and maybe even running again!)
Good luck to anyone who is thinking about all this!