Uneven legs an unexpected consequence of hip surgery

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by KING 5 HealthLink

KING5.com

Posted on March 20, 2014 at 6:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 20 at 7:44 PM

More than 300,000 hip replacement surgeries are performed each year, and by 2030 that number is expected to nearly double.

As those numbers grow, so do the chances of complications, like one leg being longer or shorter than the other.

There is a huge difference in Chuck Westendorf’s legs after a total hip replacement surgery. His right leg is one-and-a-half inch longer than the left one.

“I knew I couldn’t live like that,” said Westendorf.

Chuck is not alone. Studies show leg length inequalities are a preventable mistake that account for nearly five percent of all medical errors.

“It is a growing problem and a growing surgical procedure,” said Dr. Henry Finn, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery with the University of Chicago, Weiss Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Finn says about a third of hip replacement patients will end up with this problem, which can cause hip and back pain. His advice?  Know your surgeons level of experience and ask the right questions.

“What do they do to assure that their leg lengths are going to be as close as possible?” said Dr. Finn.

Westendorf came to see Dr. Finn just a few weeks after his surgery at another hospital.

“The leg is over lengthened, the femur is pushed down,” said Dr. Finn.

“I feel just blessed, being able to have an opportunity to live a normal day,” said Westendorf.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Gwen Westendorf, Chuck’s wife. “It brings tears to our eyes every time. We just feel like we owe his life to dr. Finn for what he did for him.”

Now he can walk tall again.

In some cases, a heel lift may be all that’s needed to fix a minor discrepancy in leg length. If it’s an obvious difference, Dr. Finn recommends having revision surgery within the first six weeks if possible, so the bone hasn’t had a chance to fuse.
 

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