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The New Face of Hip Replacement – 55-Year-Old Dancer/Choreographer and Fitness Expert Don Philpott

55-year-old Don Philpott has long inspired audiences and fitness students with his mastery of music and movement.  From his earliest years, Don’s agility and love of dance was obvious and his talent and determination propelled him to New York City’s Julliard School, and then to the stages of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and those of touring Broadway musicals and reviews. Most recently, in addition to his work as a professional dancer, he has earned a reputation as a choreographer and dance fitness expert. In the past year, arthritis in his left hip greatly limited Don’s range of movement making his work practically impossible until he underwent a total hip replacement in the summer of 2009. Don, and others like him, represents the new face of hip replacement, one that now includes a growing number of young, active and motivated patients eager to return to activities and careers that a decade ago they may have considered leaving altogether.

Explains Don’s surgeon, David Mayman, MD, an orthopedic specialist and the clinical co-director of the Computer Assisted Surgery Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “I am seeing more and more young patients that have pain and have seen multiple doctors who have said ‘you are too young for surgery,’ but they are in their 40s or 50s and are miserable.”

“About 90% of standard bearing materials last 20 years or longer and 80% last 30 years or longer,” says Dr. Mayman. “Ceramic and metal-on-metal implant wear rates are lower so they could last even longer. In fact, there is no reason to think they will fail ever,” he says. “If we have an honest open conversation with younger patients and they know they may need a revision in the future, it is reasonable to do joint replacement.”

Because Don’s dance training and workout regimen kept him in such good physical shape, he went into surgery with a goal of vacationing in Las Vegas ten days after the procedure and then returning to his work as a fitness instructor within six weeks. As Don and Dr. Mayman discussed the procedure, it became clear that Don was concerned about whether or not his dance moves might dislocate his implant.  “We tailor the surgery to the needs of a patient by choosing specific materials and designs,” explains Dr. Mayman. For Don, Dr. Mayman selected an implant with a large femoral head to eliminate the risk of dislocation.

According to Dr. Mayman, Don experienced a rapid recovery. On the day following the procedure, under the guidance of his HSS physical therapist, he walked down the hospital hallways with the help of a walker.  The next day he moved to a cane and within four days following surgery he was walking entirely on his own. Ten days later, just as planned, he flew to Las Vegas for vacation and then returned to teaching at the end of the month.

Says Don, who is pleased with his new hip and happy to be back at work, “If you think you are candidate for a hip replacement, I tell everyone, ‘don’t put it off.’”