My father-in-law bleeds Kentucky blue. He grew up in Kentucky and red-shirted with the Wildcats. He even drove Pat Riley to practice. So I was concerned about telling my father-in-law that my surgeon had spent 21 years at Duke and had replaced Coach K’s hip.
I met with three orthopedic surgeons before finding mine. Two said I was a good candidate for a hip resurfacing, as it was designed for young active people. They said I could get back to most sports (even skiing) after I recovered. Perfect.
The third surgeon differed. He said that metal-on-metal devices used in hip resurfacings were risky. He had just said something about immune reactions and pseudotumors when he made his point,
“I wouldn’t let my wife or kids have a hip resurfacing. I would recommend a total hip replacement.”
That did it. I was having a total hip replacement.
But this surgeon also said that afterwards, I could only pursue low impact activities and that skiing wasn’t a good idea. I was depressed after that news. I was also confused. All three doctors agreed I needed surgery. That was obvious – the x-ray of my left hip looked like my right hand was grabbing my left fist. But how could these surgeons have such different opinions on the right procedure?
Then I met Dr. Thomas Vail. He said he could perform either surgery. He explained the risks in hip resurfacing but said that if I used an experienced surgeon, the risks were low – none of his patients had experienced metal-related side effects. He also said that, for whatever reason, women were affected more often than men. I was a good candidate for a hip resurfacing. But, if I couldn’t accept the risks, he could perform a total hip replacement in such a way that I could get back to most sports.
I am lucky to have had opinions from four respected surgeons. But I didn’t have a clear direction – it was my choice. Dr. Vail is the Chairman of Orthopedics at UCSF, he has performed hundreds of hip resurfacings and he has a particular focus on young patients – his resume speaks for itself. But it was his measured approach, confidence and humility that tipped the scales.
I am happy with my decision in surgeon and procedure. I just hope my father-in-law will understand that I’ll be indebted to a Blue Devil.