A Modern Dancer's Bilateral Hip Surgery with the Anterior Approach
Name: Suzan Moss
Date of surgery: 1/7/08
Surgeon: Dr. Corey Burak
Hospital: Phelps Memorial Hospital, Sleepy Hollow, NY (in Westchester near NYC)
I am a modern dancer and choreographer. I have been teaching dance full time, at a community college for the past ten years.
I started noticing symptoms about five years ago. At that time I was 52. At first I would feel like I had pulled muscles when there was absolutely no reason for that to be the case. Then I gradually began to lose range of motion, and to experience pain and tingling in the groin when I was lying in bed. As the years went by, this pain increased, and became more constant. After taking or teaching a class, I would be limping, and have to go to bed for several hours. Eventually, I limped all the time, and was slightly bent forward at the hips. Dance and yoga classes became too painful to continue. (Sitting on the floor "in a comfortable cross legged position" was impossible.) I was struggling through my teaching at the college, going home everyday and collapsing. I tried to keep myself in shape with pilates and swimming, which thankfully still did not hurt. I first went to an orthopedist after about two years. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both hips, and told that bilateral hip replacement was unavoidable. However, for the first few years, three different surgeons told me that I wasn't deteriorated enough to have the surgery, since I was still able to walk for about a half hour. They told me they wouldn't operate until I could only walk one or two blocks. This left me in despair.
I went to Physical Therapy with a very skillful therapist who had previously been a dancer. (Luba Starostiak at Helen Hayes Hospital in Rockland County, near where I live.) This was helpful, and I improved. I was able to dance again with relatively little pain for about ten months. Then things started to downhill again, and eventually got even worse than before. Subsequent attempts at Physical Therapy did not have any effect. I tried acupuncture, with no results. I took glucosamin/condroiton through all of this. It did not make me any better, but when I didn't take it, I felt even worse. During this time, I was also diagnosed with osteoporosis in my left hip. (Osteoporosis eliminates hip resurfacing as an option.)
I continued to search for a surgeon. Finally, I read about the Anterior approach, mentioned by other dancers on this website. (Big thank you to Karen Goodman and Steve Minshall.) I was delighted to discover a local surgeon who used this method. Dr. Corey Burak has an office in Hawthorn, New York, (Hudson Valley Bone and Joint Surgeons). It is not far from NYC. He felt that I had already lost significant range of motion and quality of life, and that I was a good candidate for the surgery. He recommended doing both hips at the same time, so I would only have to face one rehab. He said that since I was relatively young (56) and in good shape, I would be fine. (I certainly didn't feel like I was in good shape anymore!). He was willing to have previous patients talk to me, including one who had both hips done simultaneously. Both of his patients were very happy with their results, and based on their encouragement, I went forward. (They were not dancers, but one was an athlete.)
I had both hips replaced, using the Anterior Approach, at Phelps Memorial Hospital on January 7th, 2008. (Dr. Burak also uses computer assistance for accuracy during the operation.) I was a bit dizzy and nauseous coming out of the surgery, but that didn't last long. By the next day I was able to walk a little bit with a walker, and to get off of all pain medication except Tylenol. I was amazed. (Tylenol did not touch pre-surgery pain!) The nursing care, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy were spectacular. I made significant gains everyday. I found the Physical Therapy exercises to be exhilarating rather than painful. With the Anterior Approach, there are almost no modifications. (You just have to take it slow and easy for a while when you tendu back. At first I could only do it in parallel.) I could cross my legs within the first few days, and could palm the floor by the end of the first week.
I left the hospital after ten days, and by that time, I could walk unassisted. I used a cane outdoors, because of slippery winter weather. I wanted to make sure other people would give me lots of room. I didn't want anyone to bump into me or knock me over. I also was slow crossing a street, and I wanted to signal cars to give me extra time. However, as soon as I got home, I could walk around the house all day, including going up and down stairs, without the cane. I was able to get up and down off the floor, and do simple Pilates and stretching exercises. (I must confess, this was not recommended by the hospital staff. I just needed to do it to feel like my old self.)
I continued in Physical Therapy as an outpatient. One month after surgery, I was pretty much functioning normally (by non-dance standards). After the first month, I went back to Luba and started working on more dance-oriented physical therapy. (This was much harder, but well worth it.) Two months after surgery, I went to "Gentle Yoga for Seniors and Special Needs" and was able to go back to Salsa classes. After ten weeks, I resumed teaching a weekly Pilates class at the local health club. Three months after surgery I had graduated to regular yoga classes, and went back to modern, jazz, and ballet classes, although I am taking slower paced classes than I used to.
It is now five months after surgery, and I just turned fifty seven. I can take four or five dance classes a week, and I can walk as long as I want to. I can also swing my leg over the bar on my boy's bike without any trouble. When I first started back in class, I was wobbly, and I had very little turnout. Both my balance and turnout are steadily improving, although I have a long ways to go. I have a smaller range of motion and lower extensions then when I was younger, but both of these are significantly better than in the years immediately preceding surgery, and both continue to improve. My arabesque line is the lowest, and the most difficult to hold. In modern classes I do most of the jumps, but I limit petite allegro in ballet. My fifth position is really a third position. In yoga classes I can do backward extensions, but I use blocks to help in positions like high and low lunge.
My new hips are metal on metal. Most of the time they feel like regular hips. I do notice a difference if I try to shake them very fast. If I sit with the soles of my feet together and bounce my hips, they feel heavier than my bone hips did, so I only do it gently and slowly. I also felt uncomfortable with a quick hip shimmy in a belly dance class. But most of the time, I am happy, and I feel like I have turned the clock back. I am able to thoroughly enjoy myself when I am dancing, and I am looking forward to more improvement.
I had enough accumulated sick time to take off the entire semester from my college teaching job. This is not necessary for a desk job, but since I was teaching dance and other movement courses (yoga and pilates), it has been very lovely to be able to take a few months off and focus on my own healing. I am happy about going back to work in the fall, and feel ready to deal with full time teaching again.Overall, the experience of bilateral hip replacement, using the Anterior Approach, was dramatically less difficult than I feared. The rehab has been faster than my expectations. (While in the hospital, those of us recovering from the Anterior Approach were getting better much faster than the other hip surgery patients.) I have sent friends to Dr. Burak, and they have also had very positive experiences. I would encourage any dancer in the greater Metropolitan area who needs help with hips to contact Dr. Burak, and not to be afraid of the procedure.
I would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to ask me any more specific questions. You can start by emailing me at: smoss7_at_verizon.net
July 07, 2008