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If Laird Hamilton Can Do It, So Can You…But Would You Want To?

Pro Surfer Laird HamiltonWhy would someone want to be awake during hip replacement surgery? Is that right up there with using hypnosis instead of anesthesia? Or is it possible hip replacement surgery has come so far, it’s as easy as getting your teeth cleaned? You might be surprised to hear that it’s not at all uncommon.

Laird Hamilton, a daredevil surfer who helped pioneer tow-in surfing, survived being lost at sea and rescued by the United States Coast Guard, and once saved the life of a fellow surfer by making a tourniquet out of his swim trunks, has been getting some buzz for undergoing hip replacement surgery…awake. There haven’t been too many technical details shared by him or his surgeon, but a few things are clear – hip replacement is not just for your Great-Aunt Martha, and hip replacement surgery recovery can look a whole lot better than you may have thought.

Laird Hamilton’s Hip Surgery

Dr. Steven W. Meier of Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine, an expert in hip arthroplasty, offers his perspective and tempers the hype about Laird staying awake with some hip replacement facts, and notes that the real takeaway is how quickly Laird was up and around after major reconstructive hip surgery. Here is what Dr. Meier has to say about how Laird’s surgeon was able to perform his hip replacement without the need for typical anesthesia:

“Laird most likely had a spinal anesthetic, allowing him to remain “awake.” This is an option for many patients during this type of surgery.  We usually perform this surgery under either general or spinal anesthesia. With general anesthesia, patients are asleep. With a spinal anesthetic, they are numb from the waist down. Usually patients with a spinal anesthetic are also given sedation so they essentially nap through the procedure but technically it would be possible to remain “awake” through the procedure if one really wanted to. There are certain relative benefits to using spinal anesthesia and other pros and cons to using general anesthesia.

The truly remarkable thing revealed in the story is how quickly Laird was up and around so soon after surgery. This is due to a current trend in joint replacement which is toward early mobilization, short stay, and outpatient joint replacement surgery. By using more sophisticated pain management strategies (multimodal analgesia, less opioids, regional nerve blocks), the Direct Anterior Approach, and strategies to minimize blood loss (tranexamic acid, robotic-assisted surgery), patients are less debilitated after surgery. The benefits of early mobilization are a lower rate of complications (i.e. deep venous thrombosis, etc.), shorter period of disability and a faster return to independence.”

All great news for those of you who may be putting off that hip replacement and dealing with chronic pain instead.

What about robotic-assisted surgery?  Before you get the wrong idea, robots are not performing surgery. However, there is a robotic-arm that is programmed to assist in a very specific way during surgery, and it’s a game changer. Dr. Meier has the distinction of being one of a small group of orthopedic surgeons in the Los Angeles area who is certified to use the Mako robotic-arm assisted technology to perform hip arthroplasty (along with uni-compartmental, bi-compartmental, and total knee replacement surgery).

In a total hip replacement, this cutting-edge technology offers unprecedented precision in accuracy/position of the implants and the length of the leg. This accuracy results in a decrease in dislocation rates, a longer life of the implant, and reduces the chances to need a revision surgery in the future.

Dr. Meier provides patient-specific 3D models to pre-plan the hip replacement by utilizing Stryker/Mako technology. This tailored surgical pre-operative mapping is then synced up with the patient position in the operating room. Dr. Meier guides the Stryker robotic-arm during surgery, with these synced coordinates acting like very sophisticated surgical GPS. Because the arm will not move outside of the mapped plan, Dr. Meier can focus on removal of diseased bone while preserving healthy bone, and position the hip implant based on your anatomy.

We’re curious to know more of the details of Laird’s surgery, but more importantly, we hope that others realize that you don’t have to be Laird Hamilton to quickly be up and around after hip arthroplasty these days. Learn more about hip surgery and other arthroscopic hip procedures by contacting Meier Orthopedic Sports Medicine today.

Next, read our blog, Everything You Wanted to Know About Prolotherapy.



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