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Hip and Knee Patient with MS at Her “Wit’s End”

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Seattle, WASusan, who has multiple sclerosis, is at her wit’s end. She says that since her hip replacement surgery she is worse off than ever. “I am so frustrated with getting tossed from test to test with so much pain and waiting in between,” Susan says. Is she one more statistic in yet another Hip and Knee Replacement Implant Failure?

Even though Susan (not her real name) has MS she is normally a very active person, but for the last six months she has been on crutches. It’s been 16 months since post-op and now she is waiting to get another bone scan - the second one this year. “I’m scheduled to get the scan at the end of this month but then what - another surgery? What a year this has been…”

Susan, age 48, had a total hip replacement because she was given prednisone for eye problems and it created avascular necrosis in her left hip. She had core decompression surgery to relieve the pain associated with this condition and it proved to be effective - but that was in 1996. She was told it would buy her about 12 years and then she would need a hip replacement.

“A few years ago I was in a lot of pain and x-rays suggested I was a good candidate for a new hip,” Susan says. “My surgeon advised a Zimmer short stem total hip replacement, not metal-on-metal. And I had an anterior approach rather than through the side of my thigh. I am 6' tall, slender and young. I was told that going through this way avoids cutting muscle and recovery should be faster. The short stem has been used with great success throughout Europe, and 20 or so years down the road, I could get a longer stem.

“So this idea was encouraging and recovery would be relatively easy. Because I have MS, I would be released to a facility for physical therapy that would be covered by my insurance. I know that any kind of trauma to the body could spark a MS flare-up, but thank god I did well, and within a few days, I was in rehab, where I stayed for 10 days. I continued with therapy at home and took care of myself with physical therapy; everything was going well.”

But four months after surgery, Susan started to have pain in her hip, specific to the socket joint area, and also where the stem was placed. She called her surgeon, who erred on the safe side and ordered a litany of tests. “From that time until now, I have been wondering what the hell is going on,” she says. “I’ve had CAT Scans, ultrasounds and umpteen x-rays.”

She went back to her surgeon yet again. This time she was having trouble putting weight on her leg. Her surgeon thought something was loose and recommended exploratory surgery - to look at the stem and the socket area. Keep in mind Susan has MS - she did not want another surgery. She asked if there were any other tests that would indicate what was going on rather than having surgery. Was there a definitive test that could show loosening of the device?

“Yep, hip aspiration and the triple phase bone scan,” says Susan. Of course she opted for the scan. “They take a scan, inject you with some fluid, take another scan and you see activity that can indicate loosening in the prosthetic. Sure enough, the radiologist report ‘suggests loosening.’ But I still wanted a second opinion. I saw another orthopedic surgeon who is more specialized in problem cases. We went over everything. He recommended I wait another 15 months post-op and get another bone scan because it is a more reliable reading. I decided to go the conservative route. I have been on crutches and in considerable pain all this time, and just this past week, I had the scan again.”

The results showed no change. Now Susan has to decide whether or not to undergo replacement surgery. “This is a big annoyance, to say the least,” she adds. “I want to know if this Zimmer hip is defective. I was told that one percent of people have problems; their bodies don’t respond to the prosthetic. I am tall so why do I have a short stem? The second surgeon said the angle of the cup area could be giving me pain. He also said he only uses long stem and goes in through the side."

As for a hip replacement lawsuit, Susan says she doesn’t know what can be done because her device isn’t metal-on-metal. What she really needs is an experienced hip and knee attorney.

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