Orthopaedic Surgeon Takes a Look at the ‘Hip Side of Things’

“So what’s new on the hip side of things?” Dr. Edward P. Petrow Jr., asked a room full of people at the Quality Inn Wednesday afternoon. And no, Petrow wasn’t asking about the most à la mode musical beats or in vogue fashion trends. When Petrow, the orthopaedic surgeon and recent Virginia transplant, asked about the “hip side of things” he really was asking about, well, the hips.

Petrow, the sixth Tucson-area guest speaker invited to Nogales by the Mariposa Community Health Center, specializes in joint replacements, specifically knee and hip replacements. Norma Villaseñor, a spokeswoman for Mariposa, said the clinic started holding the biannual luncheons thee years ago as part of the “Mariposa Series.” Some 30 people, both local health professionals and other community members, filed into a room at the Quality Inn around noon, ate lunch and then listened to what Petrow described as “what’s cooking in what we do.”

Villaseñor, who said the list of past speakers included a neurosurgeon and a cancer treatment specialist, said, “We want to invite them to learn about the latest innovations and intermingle and network.”

Major Changes

Petrow said joint replacement surgery has changed noticeably since he finished residency eight years ago. He now works for Tucson Orthopaedic Institute. Petrow said two big changes in hip and knee replacement surgery are the size of surgery incisions and the lifetime of the replacements. Thanks to new computer-assisted surgery techniques, the size of incisions has shrunk noticeably to around 10 centimeters, he said. And because of innovations in plastic, metal and ceramic, implants can now last up to 25 years. They used to max out around 10 years, he said. “Don’t be scared of implants, longevity is a lot better,” Petrow said.

Despite the innovations, he reminded the audience of the dangers that always accompany surgery. For example, with the metal-on-metal implants there is a very slight risk that metal debris could form a pseudo-tumor.

Because of the longer lifespan and soaring levels of obesity, the number of hip and knee replacements per year in America, currently resting around 500,000, continually increases, Petrow said. Since many people live to 100 now, if they have bad knees by age 50, they’ll probably get surgery, instead of spending the second half of their life in pain, Petrow explained.

And, extra weight equates to a disproportionate addition of joint pressure, he said. “Lose 10 pounds and that’s like taking 30 pounds of pressure off the knees with every step,” Petrow said.

Need to Educate

Judge James Soto, who is on the local hospital board, attended the event and invited his friend and former college roommate SCVUSD Superintendent Dan Fontes, because he said he knew he had bad knees. After Petrow finished his Powerpoint presentation, Fontes, who said he’d “heard all of this before” but was “still deciding” whether or not to get surgery, asked him a question.

Fontes wanted to know the risks associated with post-surgery infection, asking specifically about taking preventative medicine before dentist visits. Petrow said he tells his patients to “take antibiotics for forever. Your goal is to never have an infection.”

Soon before the audience members shuffled out and on with their day, Petrow encouraged doctors in the audience to keep their patients up-to-date – or shall we say, hip – on all procedures. “We’re the guys putting scars on people. We need to educate them,” Petrow said.

By Marisa Gerber

As published in Nogales International, Monday, August 16, 2010