Sun-Times Media/Pioneer Press

January 13, 2011

Once the weather is warmer, she’ll be outdoors. But for now, 76-year-old Elaine Konkel of Western Springs logs 40-45 minutes of walking a day on the indoor track at Hinsdale Community House.

On Feb. 13, Konkel had her right hip replaced at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Her surgeon, Dr. Steven Louis of Hinsdale Orthopaedics, used a new, less-invasive technique called the direct anterior approach. He is one of very few in the area using the method. To date, more than 100 of his patients have gone back, pain free, to their lifestyles in a fraction of the time needed by traditional hip replacement patients.

“Tylenol took care of the little pain I had,” Konkel recalled. “My surgery was on a Thursday. I was home by Saturday evening. A visiting nurse stopped by on Sunday morning. I was walking without a cane or walker in 10 days.”

Konkel’s first hip replacement surgery, using the traditional technique, was in October 2009. She was hospitalized for four days. Then she spent more than weeks at a rehabilitation center. Seven weeks after surgery, she still needed a cane.

Her first surgery left her with a 9-inch scar; her second, a 3-inch scar.

The direct anterior approach allows surgeons to reach the hip joint from the front of the hip, as opposed to the side or posterior angle used in traditional hip replacements. The hip can be replaced without detaching muscles from the pelvis or femur. Thus, the gluteal muscles, important to hip function, are less affected.

Konkel learned about the new procedure from a physical therapist she was working with after her first replacement surgery. Then she attended a seminar on the technique at Good Samaritan in late January.

“I was so impressed,” she said. “Three people who’d had the surgery said they were walking again almost immediately afterwards.”

Konkel asked Louis how much post-op physical therapy she’d need.

“You shouldn’t need any,” he replied.

“It was a miracle,” Konkel insisted. “I walked slowly at first. After six months, Dr. Louis said I was doing fine.”

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