Relieving pain without hip replacement surgery
Diagnosis: Hip pain
Treatment: Pain injections
Two years ago, Jen Larsen was at a crossroads.
The pain in her hips made it difficult to keep up with her three active teenagers.
She was gaining weight because she wasn’t physically able to do anything.
Jen had tried over-the-counter medications, physical therapy and even acupuncture, but neither the pain nor her mobility improved.
Her primary care physician referred Jen to Dr. Yung Lee at EvergreenHealth Sport & Spine Care.
Dr. Lee is a physical medicine rehabilitation specialist who uses nonsurgical treatments to keep people with a variety of musculoskeletal and neurological illnesses active and functional.
A greater chance of success
“We tailor treatment based on each individual’s goals,” Dr. Lee explains. “That might be physical therapy, use of braces or even injection treatments when needed. If that doesn’t bring relief, we can refer patients for surgical remedies.”
Dr. Lee performed a series of tests and imaging studies on Jen that showed hip arthritis and avascular necrosis in both of her hips.
That would make her a candidate for hip replacement surgery; but since Jen was only 42 years old, having the surgery now meant she’d possibly need to go through the process again in another 15 to 20 years.
“Since Jen’s a relatively young person,” Dr. Lee says, “our goal was to relieve her pain so she can delay the hip replacement surgery until later in life.”
Together, they settled on a series of cortisone injections using a new procedure that allows Dr. Lee to accurately deliver the medication to the exact spot where it will do the most good.
Dr. Lee uses ultrasound to guide the needle – and he is one of the few physicians in the nation to offer this innovative approach.
“Ultrasound-guided injections are relatively new in the United States,” he explains, “and there aren’t that many physicians who are trained to do them.”
The advantage is as clear as the picture on the ultrasound.
“If you don’t use image guidance,” Dr. Lee continues, “your miss rate is very high – as high as 50 to 60 percent. We have a much greater chance of success when we can actually see where we’re going. Even a few millimeters one way or the other can make a huge difference in how effective the treatment is.”
Keeping her active and functional
Getting the medication into the precise location has made all the difference for Jen Larsen.
She has been receiving the ultrasound-guided injections twice a year.
“The injections are managing my pain and letting me go about living my life,” she says enthusiastically. “I’ve even joined the YMCA because I’m getting married in December and I want to look good!”
And, perhaps most importantly, the ultrasound-guided injections are buying her time.
“They aren’t a cure,” Dr. Lee admits, “but they keep her active and functional. And they’re allowing us to hold off hip replacement surgery until later, when there may be advancements in hip treatments that could be very helpful to her.”
For more information about pain injections