Alternative surgery can postpone, eliminate need for future hip replacement

HOUSTON – Hip dysplasia is a condition that can lead to painful arthritis and hip replacement surgery. In fact, about 35,000 hip replacements are performed each year just for hip dysplasia, but many patients may be too young to have the operation.

Now, an alternative is giving them a new lease on life.   

Ashley Frankenthor, 21, has spent most of her young life on the move.
“I played soccer, softball, I did gymnastics, cheerleading,” Frankenthor said.

Her favorite sport turned out to be volleyball.

“I was very competitive and always needed to be aggressive,” she said.

But hip pain sidelined the promising athlete in high school. 
“I was in so much pain, where I could not walk or do anything,” Frankenthor said.

It took a few years, but Frankenthor finally got a diagnosis. She had hip dysplasia, or an abnormal hip joint.

Doctors don’t know what causes it, but if untreated, it can lead to severe arthritis.

“Once a hip is arthritic, really, the only treatment is a hip replacement,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joel Williams said.

Hip replacements can last about 20 years for elderly patients, but as many as 35 percent of patients younger than 50 have to do it again five years after their initial surgery.

Young patients like Frankenthor would either have to wait in pain for years or have the surgery and multiple revisions.

“Each time that a hip replacement is revised, the outcomes are not as good,” Williams said.

He offered Frankenthor hip preservation surgery. He essentially cut her pelvis and shifted her bone up so the hip joint aligned with the socket. It can postpone or even eliminate the need for a hip replacement down the road.

The recovery hasn’t been easy, but Frankenthor said it’s worth it.

“I feel like a whole new person after it,” she said.

Hip dysplasia affects many more women than men. Doctors said it could be a developmental condition. The environment of a mother’s womb seems to play a role in predicting if some babies will develop hip dysplasia, as does breach birth.

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