Vickroy: New hip surgery on cutting edge
By Donna Vickroy firstname.lastname@example.org July 23, 2014 7:52PM
Sam Gardeakos, of Orland Park, recently had surgery to replace his right hip. Robert Atkenson, and his brother, Paul Atkenson, whose office is in Orland Park, are the only orthopedic surgeons in the Chicago area to offer a new, minimally invasive hip procedure called SuperPATH. | Donna Vickroy/Sun-Times Media
How to avoid hip pain: Stretching, exercise and good posture can help.
For more information, visit www.superpathhiptechnique.com/infographics/
Updated: August 25, 2014 5:58PM
Throw a sledding accident onto the pile of typical aches that come with aging, and you can pretty much feel Sam Gardeakos’ pain.
“I couldn’t walk more than 50 feet,” the Orland Park dental technician said. “I was uncomfortable sitting and lying down.”
Cortisone shots helped temporarily. So did physical therapy. But the damage inflicted on his right hip when he tumbled and landed in the splits one snowy day in March 2013 while sledding with his grandchildren just couldn’t be undone.
“It was clear that it wasn’t going to get better,” he said. “And you can’t live on ibuprofen and Aleve forever.”
So when his doctor told him about a new kind of hip replacement surgery, Gardeakos signed on.
The Supercapsular Percutaneously Assisted Total Hip (SuperPATH) technique is so new that only 16 orthopedic surgeons across the country offer it. Among them are Robert and Paul Atkenson, who are brothers and orthopedic surgeons and the only two in the Chicago area who do it. They have been offering the procedure for about a year at MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island.
Though it’s difficult to learn, Robert Atkenson said the minimally invasive surgery results in less pain and faster healing for patients.
“It’s done without cutting any of the muscles or excising the hip capsule,” he said.
In all other kinds of hip replacement surgery, he said, muscles are cut and at least a portion of the capsule must be removed.
“We wind our way between muscles instead of cutting them. And we make a small incision inside the capsule instead of removing it,” Atkenson said. “By retaining the capsule, you cut down on the amount of blood loss, and you make the hip much more stable. It restores the stability the original hip had.”
Traditional hip surgery also involves lots of twisting of blood vessels, he said, whereas the SuperPATH technique avoids that.
“I operated on a lady two weeks ago from St. Louis, Missouri,” Atkenson said. “Three hours after the procedure, she was walking around the hospital ward. Sixteen hours later, she was back home.”
Days after that, he said, the patient was off to Las Vegas.
“The surgery hardly interrupted her life,” he said.
Atkenson said the procedure is available to anyone who needs a hip replacement, and any kind of implant can be used, enabling doctors to customize the hip to the patient.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that hip replacement surgery, though not as prevalent as knee replacement, is growing rapidly. There were about 332,000 total hip replacements done in 2010, up from 232,857 in 2004, the center says on its website.
Candidates for hip replacement typically display symptoms that include severe or intolerable groin pain, dependence on a cane or walker or an ongoing need for pain medication. The need can be caused by injury, congenital conditions, repetitive motion or arthritis.
Atkenson said the company that supplies SuperPATH, MicroPort Scientific Corp., requires extensive training. He and his brother worked for about a year with doctors in Arizona and San Diego to learn the procedure, practicing on cadavers.
“In 20 years of orthopedic surgery, we have never seen a procedure with such a great impact. It’s just dramatic the difference,” he said. “The only reason I do this work is for a patient’s satisfaction. I just love to see happy patients.”
Atkenson said the procedure is covered by most health insurance policies.
Gardeakos, 67, was up and walking around hours after his surgery. He went home two days later. That was in December.
Today, he’s reliving his pre-injury lifestyle — bicycle riding with his wife, walking for pleasure and goofing with his seven grandkids.
Gardeakos said his follow-up care included home rehabilitation and home nursing.
“I couldn’t drive for a month, but within two months, I was doing whatever I wanted,” he said, including rejoining a spin class at the Orland Park Sportsplex.
The surgery, he said, has had a huge impact on his life.
“I’m active again. I can go to the gym again,” he said. “And I no longer use the cart at the grocery store as a walker.”
Though he vows to never go sledding again, Gardeakos said the hip surgery makes him feel younger than his chronological age.
“Although,” he said, “there are days when all my joints ache — except for the artificial one.”
For more information on the SuperPATH technique, visit www.superpathhiptechnique.com. Robert and Paul Atkenson of Atkenson Orthopedics are at 14640 John Humphrey Drive, Orland Park; (708) 460-4422.