Hip replacement doesn’t put brakes on cross-country rider

Categories: Wellness

Katinka Howell standing with her road bike.

For Katinka Howell, 54, bicycling and gardening are essential to who she is. She and her husband are used to cycling up to 65 miles at a stretch. The calisthenics of weeding and pruning her garden at her Alamo Heights home also help keep her active. Both activities were great stress relievers until hip dysplasia put the brakes on her physical activity.  Hip dysplasia increases the possibility of hip dislocation. With Howell’s family history, she knew it was hereditary.

“I’m not one to get depressed,” she said, “but it was frustrating.”

Dr. Jesse Delee, UT Health San Antonio clinical professor of orthopaedics, prescribed treatment methods for her, but the pain persisted.  When it began to affect her sleep, she and Delee agreed she needed more aggressive treatment – an anterior hip replacement.  Unlike a total hip replacement, an anterior hip replacement involves making an incision from the front. Muscles are moved apart rather than cutting them. This reduces surgery length and recovery time.

Delee recommended Dr. Frank Buttacavoli, a UT Health San Antonio orthopaedic surgeon.

“Dr. Delee said, ‘he’s a young surgeon, he’s really good, go see him.’”

Howell agreed to meet with Dr. Buttacavoli.

“He’s very open, upfront, approachable, and so I decided to do the surgery with him.”

Given a choice of hospitals, Howell selected University Health System because she had had a good experience there before.

By mid-afternoon after her surgery, a physical therapist had her taking steps. She was discharged the next morning. After a week of in-home therapy, she was able to walk on her own.  In five weeks she was back on her stationary bike.

“What we’ve seen with anterior hip replacements is quicker recovery,” Buttacavoli said. “The patients are walking unassisted sooner than traditional approaches.  Anterior approach to the hip has shown decreased rates of joint dislocation as well.  Katinka was perfectly suited to the procedure because she is so fit.”

By fall, nearly six months post-surgery, Howell was back on long rides again.

“Last weekend,” she said, “a group of couples who are avid cyclists went riding in the Hill Country, and I was able to ride 33 miles without any issues.”

“I was very pleased with the facility and my private room, and the nurses were so kind,” she said. “I had a young physical therapist who worked with me just one time.  Two months later I’m at the grocery store and she recognizes me and says hello.  I thought that was tremendous.

“It’s a good hospital and I’m really pleased with it. It’s good for people to know there’s a whole different side to University besides the emergency service it’s known for.”

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