Disneyland is often billed as the Happiest Place on Earth. But on the day Christine Burke visited she was miserable. An avid runner who works as a personal trainer, Burke had been battling recurring hip pain for years. This was her low point.
“I couldn’t walk around Disneyland and enjoy it as much as I should,” she said.
In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor sits down with Burke and Scripps orthopedic surgeon Rina Jain, MD, to discuss joint replacement and how it can make a world of difference for patients experiencing chronic hip pain.
Dr. Jain diagnosed her with osteoarthritis, a common joint disorder that is often attributed to aging and wear and tear.
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint located where the thigh bone or femur meets the pelvis bone. The rounded head of thigh bone forms the ball, which fits into a cup-shaped socket in the pelvis. Ligaments connect the ball to the socket and usually provide tremendous stability of the joint.
Osteoarthritis is a condition that happens when cartilage that cushions the bones at the joint breaks down and wears away, causing bones to rub together.
It is more common in women after age 55. But Burke was only 47 and had been dealing with hip pain for several years.
Dr. Jain made another discovery and this one surprised Burke. She had a condition known as hip dysplasia, a dislocation of the hip joint that is present at birth. When left untreated, hip dysplasia leads to arthritis and deterioration of the hip.
“We don’t know why it happens but it tends to happen more in women,” Dr. Jain said. Burke was born with the condition and over the years as she engaged in heavy exercise, “her hip wore out faster than expected,” Dr. Jain said.
Osteoarthritis is treated in many different ways, Dr. Jain said. “You can start with simple things like anti-inflammatory medications, Tylenol, physical therapy. If none of that works then surgery is considered, and that often means joint replacement,” she said.
Fortunately for Burke, hip replacement surgery has changed over the past 20 years and become more high-tech.
“Hip replacements have improved dramatically in terms of the actual surgery experience,” Dr. Jain said.
Incisions are much smaller. “We’ve also improved in terms of blood loss. Patients hardly ever need a blood transfusion anymore with this type of surgery,” she said.
Patients also spend less time in the hospital. “Maybe one to three days instead of a week or two like it used to be in the old days,” Dr. Jain said.
Burke was walking the day after the surgery. Dr. Jain said she was the exception. “With most hip replacements we do try and get the patients up on the same day with a walker to do some kind of walking, at least a few feet,” she said.
Burke’s new hip consists of a socket made out of titanium with a medical-grade plastic liner inside. “What she has now is a smooth metal ball rubbing on plastic,” Dr. Jain said. “So instead of rough bone grinding on rough bone, it’s smooth metal rubbing on super smooth plastic.”
Burke was back to work six weeks after the surgery. She recently came back from a hiking trip at Yosemite National Park and plans to race in a half-marathon. She’s being diligent about taking care of her new hip though and does not plan to overdo it.
“I plan to continue half marathons and hikes. I’ll just be walking a lot,” she said.
She also plans to return to Disneyland. This time she plans to enjoy the experience.
“I’m so grateful for this surgery,” Burke said. “I’m so grateful for all the care that I’ve received.”