Hip, Hip Hooray

Outpatient replacement procedure results in rapid recovery

Seven years ago, Gene Cooley and his wife took a sabbatical from the bustling lives they had come to know here in the US and moved to a small, Spanish seaside town 20 miles southwest of Barcelona called Sitges.

Often referred to as the Saint- Tropez of Spain, Sitges offered the couple a chance to unwind. While they continued working, they explored the continent they fell in love with on a cruise a few years earlier.

“That was the whole point of going over there,” Gene says. “We wanted to see Europe. And believe me, we made the most of it. In the time we were there, we visited 18 countries and more than 100 cities.

“Another thing we loved there was the lifestyle. It’s totally different from what it’s like here in America. I mean, there’s a break for every holiday. And they have a lot of holidays. I had 40 paid holidays a year over there. That’s unheard of here.”

It is when you work in the restaurant business, which Gene has done for 35 years. Now a chef at Hurricane Charley’s in Punta Gorda, Gene was accustomed to working most holidays. He got a break while in Europe but began to pay a price for it.

“We didn’t have a car over there, so we walked most everywhere we went,” Gene says. “After a year or two, that caught up to me and I started to feel a lot of pain in my hips. I also lost a lot of flexibility, so much that I couldn’t even bend to pick up something.”

After a couple of uncomfortable years, Gene finally visited a doctor. The diagnosis was arthritis brought on by the years of standing at work.

“Weight was a factor, too,” Gene admits. “I was close to 400 pounds at the time. That and spending nearly 14 hours a day on my feet contributed to the problem, which was that my hips were just wearing out.”

After Gene and his wife returned to the US two years ago to be closer to family, his hip pain began to affect his work. When it forced him to start relying on others to do tasks he used to do, he sought medical help again.

Based on a recommendation from his insurance company, Gene went to Advanced Orthopedic Center, which has locations in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. That’s where he was placed in the care of Jacob M. Pennington, DO.

Front and Back

During the initial appointment, Dr. Pennington conducted a thorough examination that included taking x-rays of Gene’s aching hips. Those images showed that Gene was suffering with end-stage arthritis, the most severe stage of the condition.

“With end-stage arthritis, patients are not only suffering from a great deal of pain, they have also lost a lot of function and mobility,” Dr. Pennington educates. “That’s where Gene was, and the only way to help patients like that is through hip replacement surgery.”

Dr. Pennington recommended that Gene undergo an advanced version of the procedure called an anterior direct hip replacement. The doctor typically suggests this outpatient surgery. This approach causes less trauma to the muscle surrounding the joint than the traditional procedure because the surgeon enters the body from the front of the joint instead of the back.

“When you’re approaching the hip joint from the front, you can simply retract the two main muscle groups that are in the way of the joint itself,” Dr. Pennington explains. “You don’t need to cut any muscle to get to that joint.

“This is a muscle-sparring approach, and because you’re doing only bone work and not cutting any muscles or tendons, patients recover more quickly than they do from traditional replacement procedures.”

Further aiding the patient is the type of artificial joint implanted by Dr. Pennington. That joint is a smaller implant that has a bit more curve. The size and shape make it easier to slip beneath the muscle without doing damage.

As a result, patients typically go home a few hours after surgery. They also recover much faster than patients undergoing traditional replacement surgeries. Gene went home the same day as the procedure and was amazed at how quickly he recovered.

Do It Again

“Dr. Pennington replaced my left hip first, and two days after surgery, I no longer needed the walker they gave me for stability,” Gene says. “And three days after that, I no longer needed the cane they gave me. That’s amazing, just amazing.”

The quick recovery was aided in part by Gene taking off 150 pounds in the 18 months prior to visiting Dr. Pennington. His recovery from surgery was so quick that soon after he decided to have his right hip replaced as well.

“Gene initially wanted to wait a year before having the second hip replaced, but he recovered so well and so quickly from the first surgery that he had the second hip replaced just six weeks later,” Dr. Pennington offers.

That second hip replacement procedure was performed late last summer.

“Within a few months of undergoing the second surgery, I was walking around and feeling like a different person,” Gene enthuses. “It’s amazing what this surgery has done for me. I am doing all the things I could not do before.”

Gene is exercising regularly again in an effort to keep his weight in check and living the active, independent life he was forced to give up a few years earlier.

“I can actually get down on my hands and knees and clean baseboards, which is something I was doing just the other day. And at work, I can walk and be on my feet all day”, Gene says. “And at work I don’t need to ask for help lifting or doing anything.”

“I’m more careful with how I use my hips, but I’m living the life I want to live. I cannot thank Dr. Pennington and his staff at Advanced Orthopedic Center enough for giving that life back to me.

“They’re all great people, and I highly recommend them.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Gene’s photo by Jordan Pysz.

As seen in Charlotte County Edition of
Florida Health Care News

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    • Advanced Orthopedic Center

      Whether you are a professional or collegiate athlete, an active retiree, a "weekend warrior," a high school football star or a hard-working employee anxious to make a difference, the Advanced Orthopedic Center is here to help you feel better a... Read More

    • Jacob M. Pennington, DO

      Jacob M. Pennington, DO, is an orthopedic surgery specialist who is fellowship-trained in hip and knee surgery. Dr. Pennington graduated magna cum laude from the University of Kentucky in Lexington in 2010 and went on to earn his medical de... Read More