GAINESVILLE, Ga. — "This was the easiest surgery I’ve ever had."
This is the compliment Braselton resident Virginia Dayton gives to the anterior approach hip replacement procedure she underwent in November 2010 at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) in Gainesville.
After suffering for years with hip pain, Dayton was hesitant to go through a joint replacement surgery after undergoing knee replacement surgery several years earlier.
"I had knee replacement in 2001, and that was the worst experience I have ever gone through," she says. "When I started having hip trouble, I put off surgery as long as I could.
"After a terrible weekend, I was ready to set up surgery with another doctor when I ran across the article about Dr. DeCook and the anterior approach technique for hip replacement at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. I called on Monday morning and set up an appointment. After meeting with him, there were never any second thoughts about him doing my surgery."
Anterior approach is an advanced surgical technique in which an incision is made in the front of the hip rather than the side or back of the hip. The procedure is performed at NGMC by Charlie DeCook, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon with Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine at The Longstreet Clinic who is fellowship trained in total joint replacement. Dr. DeCook is one of only nine orthpaedic surgeons in Georgia offering this innovative surgery.
"Going from the front is less invasive and less damaging to the surrounding muscle and hip joint," says Dr. DeCook. "As a result, patients are in less pain, recover quicker and leave the hospital sooner. In fact, most patients are walking within hours of having the procedure, and the majority go home the following day."
Other benefits include fewer restrictions after surgery, decreased risk of dislocation, smaller incision and more accurate leg length.
The surgery is performed on a customized operating table called a HANA arthroplasty table. The HANA table has the capability to minimize trauma to muscles and tissues by allowing for precise placement of the leg in such a way that muscles do not have to be cut. Northeast Georgia Medical Center is one of only five hospitals in Georgia with a HANA arthroplasty table.
For Dayton, the results were immediate.
"I was walking a couple hours after coming to my room after surgery," she says. "I had a physical therapy visit that afternoon and went home the next morning. Plus, I took virtually no pain medication – two pills in the hospital and one after I went home – I just didn’t need it."
Others were awed by Dayton’s outcome as well.
"My home health team had never heard about this surgery, and they were all amazed at my progress," she says. "Three weeks after surgery, I was driving and doing whatever I wanted to do."
Now, Dayton enjoys long walks with her dog, Cindel, whereas before, she could only walk for about four to five minutes. She credits Dr. DeCook with her success.
"I am so glad I found Dr. DeCook and won’t hesitate to go back to him when I have to have another knee or hip replaced," she adds.
Clara Sneed agrees. She suffered with arthritis pain in her left hip for almost three years before finally undergoing anterior approach hip replacement surgery at NGMC in October 2010.
Prior to moving to Hiram, Ga., last summer, Sneed had lived in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where her orthopedic surgeon there had told her she was a good candidate for hip replacement. But Sneed had refused, deciding she would rather just live with the pain.
However, after hearing about the anterior approach technique, Sneed and her daughter and daughter-in-law did some research, and Sneed quickly decided this would a good option for her. Her outcomes also were excellent.
"From day one, I could put my left foot on the floor with no pain – I had almost instant relief from the pain I had suffered from for almost three years," she says.
And, like Dayton, Sneed’s therapists were amazed with her progress.
"When my physical therapist came to see me on the first day, and I was walking, she just stared at me. She asked me about my discharge instructions regarding hip precautions, and I told her I hadn’t received any – I didn’t need them!"
Within two weeks, Sneed was back to her normal activities, plus enjoying things that had been much harder for her before surgery. A semi-retired school teacher, Sneed still substitutes often in the classroom and is now able to bend and squat at students’ desks without pain. She also is able to carry her grandchildren, something that was nearly impossible for her before.
"If I had known I would have this much relief, and recover from surgery this easily, I would have done this two years ago," she says. "I just thank my lucky stars that I found Dr. DeCook."
Dayton wholeheartedly agrees.
"I thank God that Dr. DeCook came to Gainesville," she says. "He will make life so much better for a lot of people."
For more information about anterior approach hip replacement at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, visit www.nghs.com/surgery or call 770-219-3840.
Dr. DeCook sees patients at The Longstreet Clinic’s offices in Gainesville and Braselton. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 770-532-7092 or visit www.longstreetclinic.com.