In January 2007, Hill, then 45, became the 78th patient to receive a hip resurfacing at the hands of surgeon Robert L Barrack, MD, who performed the first resurfacing in the United States in May 2006 after it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an alternative to total hip replacement. Since then, Hill has participated in several marathons, with an eye on the 2011 Boston Marathon.
The procedure Hill received is performed by resurfacing the head of the femur with a metal hip “joint,” leaving the rest of the thighbone intact as apposed to traditional hip replacement, which replaces the femur.
“It was definitely the right decision,” says Hill.
Hill knew he had osteoarthritis and that the cartilage in his right hip was almost completely worn when he ran in the 2006 Boston Marathon. His doctors advised Hill, a resident of Arkansas, to wait before undergoing surgery, but Hill decided to do research on his own and learned about the procedure done by Dr. Barrack.
During the 2006 Boston Marathon, Hill’s pain was overwhelming. Without hip surgery, Hill would not have been able to run any other marathons and would be deprived of competing in races with his teenaged son. With resurfacing, Hill was able to walk a mile a few days after surgery, swim three to four weeks after surgery and cycle at six weeks.
“Recovery was pretty easy because I stayed active, and the pain before the surgery made the recovery process even easier,” says Hill.
Dr. Barrack, chief of staff for orthopaedic surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, believes hip resurfacing may have advantages for certain patients, especially younger, more active patients. Hip resurfacing also may provide a more permanent solution for young patients.
“There’s a perception that the patient population for hip replacement surgery is elderly, but that’s not always the case,” Dr. Barrack says. “We often see patients in their 40s and 50s who already are experiencing severe osteoarthritis.”
Hill was born with a hip abnormality allowing years of running and staying fit to wear out the cartilage in his hip sooner than normal.
“It can cause depression if you don’t have balance in your life,” he says.
Hill has also learned the importance of being active and how exercising can play a major role in how your body recovers from surgery and during rehabilitation.
Within the past year, Hill has run three marathons after his resurfacing procedure. Running for exercise and cutting sports are strongly discouraged by the vast majority of American surgeons following traditional total hip replacement while few if any such restrictions are placed on patients following hip resurfacing. Hill also runs about 15 miles a week, building up to 20 miles a week in preparation for another Boston marathon in April.