Steve Riggleman didn’t need just a hip replacement. He needed both hips replaced – and sooner rather than later.
“It got to where I couldn’t even walk,” Riggleman said. “I had to use two canes to walk with.” So he went to see Dr. James Comadoll at the Salisbury clinic of Novant Health Orthopedics & Sports Medicine.
“Dr. Comadoll took X-rays, and there was nothing left of my hips,” he said. “He couldn’t understand how I was even walking.”
Comadoll remembered the appointment well. “I told him he won the prize that day,” he said. “I see hips and knees all day long, and he got the prize. He had the worst.”
Comadoll said Riggleman had very advanced arthritis in both hips.
"Many times if you have one bad hip and one that’s not so bad, you can just replace one hip and you’ll be OK for a few years. But in Steve’s case, basically both hips were completely destroyed,” Comadoll said. “So it was not a matter of if they both needed to be replaced, but how to get them both done.”
Fortunately for Riggleman, he was a candidate for a small-incision, anterior hip replacement, in which the diseased joint is accessed from the front. “Many surgeons doing a single hip replacement will have the patient on their side, performing a posterior lateral hip replacement,” Comadoll said. “So you can’t do both hips at the same time, because one side’s up and one side’s down.”
“With a small-incision, off-table anterior hip replacement, you can just go from one side to the other and do them both in the same setting,” he added.
Because no muscles are cut, dislocation is less likely, and patients are usually up and walking the same day, Comadoll said. Recovery is also quicker.
Following his surgery at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, he had physical therapy at home for about six weeks. And within three months, he was comfortable walking without a crutch or cane. That was about a year ago, he said, and he can now do the same things he could before his hips started failing.
“I like to hunt,” he said. “Before I had this done, if I was in the woods I couldn’t even step over a (fallen) tree, even just a small tree. I had to either walk around it or sit on it and swing myself around. If I had to get across a little creek, I had to either go through it or find some other way around it.”
“I couldn’t even sit on my lawnmower to mow,” Riggleman recalled. “I had to sit with both legs on one side, like side saddle, and it got to where I couldn’t even do that. But now I have no trouble doing any of that.”
Of Comadoll, he said, “You couldn’t ask for a better doctor, all the way around. Very professional. He explained everything to me, what to expect.” Just as important, Riggleman said, “he’s a very likeable man. Considerate, like a friend. It was like we had known each other about all of our lives.”
Comadoll said candidates for the small-incision anterior hip replacement include just about anyone, even if only one hip is being done. People who are extremely overweight or have unusual hip anatomy may not be good candidates.
As a measure of success, he points to Riggleman. “He went from a guy who was unable to walk to a guy who walks without aids – and he’s got a smile on his face,” Comadoll said.