« The Geezer Files

Bionic Generation

by Terry Veldhouse

A billboard on the I-229 tells me that Sanford Hospital here in Sioux Falls did 1,000 joint replacements last year. I dont know how that stat breaks down, but what we need to know is that it is now common to replace hips, knees, and shoulders. Usually this comes about because osteoporosis causes the bones making up the joints to degrade.

A thousand a year is a lot. This made me think that there have to be some bionic people at Washington Crossing who have had this procedure done. I was right.

Verla just had her hip replaced this spring, so I went to her to find out how it all works. She started to have pain in her hip about a year ago and after bearing it for a while, she went to her general practitioner to find out what she could do about it. Initially, he did some diagnostic work which included injecting some steroids and taking x-rays of the injection sites to pinpoint the pain source. The steroids actually did relieve the pain, but it came back in about a week. Four different attempts were made to eliminate the pain with the steroid shots, but it was never a permanent fix.

The next step was to determine if back surgery was the right answer. There were actually four vertebrae involved in the problem and it was determined that the surgery was simply too grueling for someone her age.

After all this poking around, Verla was scheduled for surgery on her right hip. The surgery involved cutting off the ball on the top of the femur and installing a new metal ball on the bone, then cleaning out the hip socket and installing a new metal socket. The goal of joint replacement is to replace the old worn out surfaces that rub against each other with new surfaces, usually metal, which will move better and not transmit pain.

The same day as the surgery, Verla was up and walking around. Today, eight weeks after the replacement, she has no pain in her hip. It turns out that 23 years ago, she had the left hip replaced, which also is still working well without pain. The big difference between the two is that 23 years ago she was on crutches for six weeks after the surgery.

Here are a couple of facts for you to know. Every pound of body weight equals three pounds of pressure on the hip joint. Just another bit of evidence that size matters. Second, if you have a hip replacement after the age of sixty, it will most likely last for the rest of your life.

For Verla, the whole ordeal from the first doctor visit till the day of the surgery was about eleven months, so this is not a rush process. The good news is that if you outlast some of your parts, you have now survived long enough to get new ones.

Washington Crossing is Sioux Falls' premier independent senior living community.