Health Watch: Hip Pain

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What's old may be new again when it comes to osteoarthritis. Doctors are studying a procedure that could help up to 2-million Americans who suffer from arthritis of the hip. One doctor is calling it possibly the best non-surgical alternative out there right now.

For almost 20-years, Carol Slippen has been searching for a cure for her leg pain.
"I've gone for massage therapy. I've seen a rheumatologist. I've seen an osteopath. I've gone for physical therapy," she says. Little by little, that pain has been slowing her down. It stems from osteoarthritis in her right hip. She has one more shot at pain
relief before she'll need a hip replacement.

Doctors at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York are trying two techniques commonly used on the arthritic knee: Lavage and Visco-supplementation. Essentially, doctors replace the old joint fluid, which is really not doing its job-protecting the cartilage.

The first step, Lavage, is a simple cleaning out of the hip joint with saline or salt water. That means a greater range of motion and more flexibility. The second step, called Visco-supplementation, involves three injections of a fluid, which mimmicks the hip's natural one.

Carol's doctor, Vjay Vad, is due to release results of his research on the combined technique this fall. "Four out of five people at a year plus-are doing well-so that's an 80-plus percent success rate." The key, he says, is to get to patients early in their disease, and hopefully delay, if not avoid, hip replacement surgery.

Carol is already planning ahead to her sons wedding. "I am walking down that aisle, and I'm dancing at that wedding---there's no two-ways about it."

Dr. Vad says in the not too distant future, he expects to be able to do the same procedure with a fluid that will help the body actually grow cartilage. So far, there are no scientifically proven substances around. But, they are in development. Synvisc---the substance Carol received---lasts between one and a half and two years.

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