New hip gives hope of riding again

The painful effects of arthritis were preventing Cecilia Uhlmann from enjoying her outdoor lifestyle. At age 74, Uhlmann was determined to get back to riding her horse, Vince — something she’s been doing since she was 3 years old. She turned to Bayhealth Orthopaedic Surgeon John R. Burger, DO, to find relief from debilitating left hip pain that left her with a limp.

No stranger to orthopaedic surgery, Uhlmann had both her right hip and left knee replaced in recent years. She ignored the pain in her left hip because she was dealing with emotional hardships — the passing of her husband in 2015 and selling her six-acre farm that had become too much for her to manage on her own. It was during that time Uhlmann decided she couldn’t put her health on the back burner any longer.

“I liked Dr. Burger right away,” recalled Uhlmann of her first visit to Bayhealth Orthopaedics, Dover. “He listened and answered all of my questions. I had a lot of confidence in him after one visit, just from our conversation.”

Dr. Burger explained that the osteoarthritis in Uhlmann’s left hip altered her gait or stride. “With advanced osteoarthritis like Cecilia had, it’s not uncommon for a hip problem to cause the inner knee to hurt because of the nerve that runs between the two areas,” explained Dr. Burger. “This made Cecilia feel like one leg was shorter than the other. She was walking on her toes to compensate for her hip deformity.”

X-rays confirmed that joint degeneration had left Uhlmann’s hip in a bone-on-bone state. Dr. Burger typically considers all conservative treatments like physical therapy and injections to remedy a patient’s joint pain before surgery is considered. In Uhlmann’s case, however, hip surgery was inevitable.

Uhlmann was a candidate for anterior hip replacement — a less invasive surgical approach where the surgeon makes an incision through the front of the leg, sparing muscles in the process. The most important muscles for hip function and walking are left undisturbed, which makes for a shorter hospital stay, smaller incision, fewer restrictions during recovery, and shorter recovery time.

“She lives an active lifestyle and was motivated to get back to doing everything she was doing before her surgery — and more,” said Dr. Burger. He prefers the anterior approach to hip replacement because, while research shows similar outcomes long-term for the anterior and posterior approaches, anterior hip replacement patients tend to do better the first six weeks after surgery with a faster recovery and less pain.

Uhlmann had a successful surgery at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus. The Kent Campus is certified by the Joint Commission for total knee and total hip replacements, and recently announced that they had zero infections for total knee and total hip replacements in 2017. The national average for total joint infections is between 0.5 and 2 percent.

“It left me feeling better than I had in years,” Uhlmann said of her successful surgery. Just two hours post-op, she walked two laps. “To wake up and not feel pain for the first time in a while was absolutely wonderful. It felt so good to get up and move around like I used to.” Remarkably, Uhlmann had very little pain, needing prescription-strength pain reliever for the first day only and Tylenol after that.

Uhlmann spent two days at Bayhealth Hospital, Kent Campus and says it was a positive experience. “All the nurses and staff in the Orthopaedics department were so caring,” she said. “I think the world of Dr. Burger. He’s a terrific doctor and I’d go back to him in a heartbeat.”

Excited to now be living pain-free without restriction, Uhlmann is ready to enjoy the simple things in life like riding her horse again. With physical therapy helping to build up her strength, Uhlmann can get back in the saddle again very soon.

Visit Bayhealth.org/Orthopaedics to learn more about Bayhealth’s Division of Orthopaedics. Visit Bayhealth.org/Find-A-Doc or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS to receive a full list of orthopaedic surgeons who perform the anterior hip replacement procedure.