Albert Garcia works his East El Paso delivery route for United Parcel Service on Wednesday. Garcia received a double hip replacement Jan. 7 and was back on the job three months later. (Photos by Rudy Gutierrez — El Paso Times)
At 45, Albert Garcia had the hips of an 80 year old.
“I played sports all my life,” he said. “After high school, I played a lot of softball, racquetball and volleyball. I’ve been on the job for 24 years and that’s active enough with all the lifting. I was always very active, never stagnant.”
Two years ago, Garcia, a UPS driver, was having issues in his hip area. He thought it was a simple groin pull, the result of putting too much stress on muscles in his groin and thigh.
“I went to see the doctor who took an X-ray and that’s when he told me my hips were gone,” he said. “My hips were completely deteriorating. It started with the left hip that was bone on bone, all the cartilage was gone. About a year later, the right side started to hurt. There was a little cartilage there but it started going bone on bone.”
Garcia lived through the pain for two years taking cortisone injections and pain medication until he couldn’t take it any longer.
He attended a seminar and meet Dr. Brandon Broome who specializes in anterior approach hip replacement which has been shown to lead to a quicker recovery with less pain and fewer restrictions.
“I had to do something,” Garcia said. “I have three kids who are 14, 11 and 7. When I played catch in the backyard with my son, if I didn’t reach the ball when he threw it to me, I couldn’t bend down and pick it up. He had to run over, grab the ball, give it to me and then run back.”
Garcia’s frustration level reached a new high.
“I couldn’t do anything around the house either,” he said. “I couldn’t get on the roof to work on the air conditioner and I was limited to what I could do on the yard; everything was limited. I went from an active lifestyle to a sedentary lifestyle.”
Garcia finally had double hip replacement surgery on Jan. 7.
“I was walking hours after the surgery,” he said. “I never used any crutches or walkers, only in the hospital because it was procedure. I only had four weeks of therapy at home.”
And he was back working on April 7.
Broome, who has been with the El Paso Orthopaedic Surgery Group since January, said Garcia couldn’t even put his socks or shoes on.
“He couldn’t lay flat on the bed,” he said. “His legs would not go flat and he would walk kind of hunched over.”
In the anterior approach the orthopaedic surgeon accesses the hip joint by entering through the front of the body and going between the hip muscles that help hold the hip joint in place. Smaller incisions are possible with this procedure versus traditional hip surgery.
In traditional hip replacement surgery, an incision of 8 to 10 inches is made beside or behind the hip joint. The surgeon must go through muscle and detach the muscles from the “ball and socket” of the hip joint.
Albert Garcia says the last time he felt pain in his hips was the day he walked into his surgery to replace both. He was walking pain-free hours after the procedure.
“You always have to worry about the hip popping out,” Broome said of the traditional method. “For two months after those surgeries, you can’t bend your leg past 90 degrees and you can’t cross your legs over.”
With the anterior approach, because the surgeon goes between the muscles so detachment is not required.
“Also, since the they are laying on their back, we can use an X-ray machine during the procedure so we can use that to compare both hips so we can make sure the position is 100 percent optimal before they get off the table,” he said. “If there needs to be a minor adjustment, we can do it right there and then. In the old way, they would get an X-ray in the recovery room and a lot of times it was too late to do anything any way.”
The anterior approach to total hip replacement is becoming more popular because it is less invasive, hospital stays are shorter, and recovery and rehabilitation are quicker for patients.
“The problem with doing them this way is the patient feels too good, too quick and they are very prone to go out there and over do it,” he said. “We had to hold Albert back. A week after surgery he sent me a video of himself hitting volleyballs with his daughter.”
This less invasive surgery is especially appropriate for patients who are active and eager to return to work and their daily activities as quickly as possible as in Garcia’s case.
“With the traditional method, recovery takes a little bit longer because they have to get those muscles woken back up,” Broome said.
He said in many cases, it takes about 6 months to a year to be at full strength using the traditional method.
“We have some good studies out now that shows even in a year, the traditional approach still hasn’t caught up as far as strength with this one.”
Garcia said his double hip replacement was a life-changing operation.
“The last time I felt pain was 5 p.m. the day I walked in there for the operation,” he said as he climbed in his UPS truck. “I’m back being active again. I’m back with my kids playing on the volleyball court again. I’m out there doing things around the house. It totally brought back the life I had before.
Victor R. Martinez may be reached at 915-546-6128.
The following are conditions that can damage the hip joint, sometimes necessitating hip replacement surgery:
- Osteoarthritis. Commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis damages the slick cartilage that covers the ends of bones and helps joints move smoothly.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Caused by an overactive immune system, rheumatoid arthritis produces a type of inflammation that can erode bone and cartilage and deform joints.
- Osteonecrosis. If there is inadequate blood supply to the ball portion of the hip joint, the bone may collapse and deform.
- You might consider hip replacement if you’re experiencing hip pain that:
- Persists, despite pain medication.
- Worsens with walking, even with a cane or walker.
- Interferes with your sleep.
- Affects your ability to go up or down stairs.
- Makes it difficult to rise from a seated position.
Source: Mayo Clinic.
- Who: Dr. Brandon Broome, surgeon with the El Paso Orthopaedic Surgery Group.
- What: He specializes in anterior approach hip replacement which has been shown to lead to a quicker recovery with less pain and fewer restrictions. In addition, he also performs knee replacement surgery including partial and total knee replacement.
- Information: 533-7465 or upfronthip.com.