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Sibley Memorial Hospital


Northwest DC 5255 Loughboro Rd. Washington, DC Directions →

New Route to New Hips

Craig Laughlin spent six seasons as a right-winger with the Washington Capitals, but last year at age 55, two bad hips stopped him from even being able to skate.

"I was down to bone-on-bone," says Laughlin, now a color analyst for the Caps. "Excruciating pain on both my right and left hip--if we were on a road trip, I couldn't walk from the hotel to the rink."

So he started looking into hip-replacement surgery. Baby boomers like Laughlin are fueling a huge growth in hip replacements, which have doubled over the past two decades to more than 300,000 surgeries a year in the US. And although the operation is remarkably effective, with it come weeks and even months of painful recovery and rehabilitation.

But a new approach may make those drawbacks obsolete. It's called anterior hip-replacement surgery, meaning the surgeon enters the joint through the front of the body as opposed to the back.

"That allows us to actually go around muscles without cutting and damaging nerves," says Anthony Unger, medical director of the Sibley Institute of Bone & Joint Health. Sibley was the first hospital in the area to perform the surgery, and it remains at the forefront of research and education.

The advantage, Unger says, is a much quicker recovery time: "Patients can go back to work faster, drive a car faster, play sports faster."

When Laughlin had his first hip operated on last year, he spent less than 72 hours in the hospital. "Within three weeks," he says, "I was playing tennis."

Read all of the 'Saving Lives with Science' pieces about our 2013-2014 Top Hospitals.

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Posted at 4:00 PM/ET, 10/02/2014
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