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Hip, Hip, Hooray!

March 26, 2013

Brothers Share an Uncommon Life Experience with Hip Replacement

Many siblings share a variety of characteristics, interests and experiences. Brothers Glen and Mike Lenhart are no exception.

Both brothers are nearly life-long residents of Fremont, moving here as young children with their parents in 1967. Following in their father's footsteps, each brother now runs his own deli in San Jose: father Michael owns The Sourdough Eatery, Glen owns The Freshly Baked Eatery, and Mike owns California Sourdough. Glen and Mike also share a love of soccer, having played the sport competitively throughout childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.

That mutual love of soccer and the physically demanding work at their delis may have contributed to their latest shared experience of painful, chronic hip arthritis. They even shared the same cure - minimally invasive hip replacement surgery at the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research (IJRR) at Washington Hospital. Their surgeries were performed on the same day by the same orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alexander Sah.

"I don't think we've ever performed hip replacement surgery on brothers on the same day before," says Dr. Sah. "It's also not terribly common to do hip replacements in men who are so young - Glen is 52 and Mike is 49. I encouraged them to wait as long as possible, and they were hesitant to take time off work for surgery since they run their own businesses."

Serving as Co-Medical Director of the IJRR with Dr. John Dearborn, Dr. Sah joined the Center for Joint Replacement at Washington Hospital in 2008 after completing a five-year orthopedic residency and a one-year fellowship in minimally invasive hip and knee surgery. Younger brother Mike became one of Dr. Sah's patients that year.

"My symptoms started in my right leg about five years ago, with intermittent, sharp pains in my thigh," Mike says. "As the pain increased, I decided to see a doctor. The first doctor I saw told me I needed back surgery. I wasn't sold on her diagnosis, and I definitely was not eager to have back surgery."

Mike decided to try chiropractic treatment first, going through a six-week treatment program with no improvement. Fortunately, the chiropractor refunded Mike's payments when the treatment did not work. He subsequently made an appointment at Stanford Medical Center, where they took new X-rays and told him he had arthritis and needed a hip replacement. Rather than seek treatment at Stanford, though, Mike decided to go to Washington Hospital.

"Dr. Sah and Dr. Dearborn have well-known reputations in the Bay Area for being the best at what they do, specializing in knee and hip replacement," Mike says. "I wanted to see the best. I went to Washington Hospital because they have state-of-the-art equipment and the new joint facility associated with them. It also is five minutes from my house, which made it convenient. Once I found Dr. Sah, I didn't consider any other doctors or hospitals."

Dr. Sah examined Mike and his X-rays and agreed that he needed a hip replacement, but encouraged him to postpone surgery for a while.

"After meeting with Dr. Sah, he told me that because of my age, I should put it off until I couldn't take the pain any more," Mike recalls. "His first concern was for me, not about getting to do surgery. He said I would know when it was time to have surgery. That impressed me. After seeing other doctors who wanted to do surgery right away for the wrong reasons, I finally got a doctor whose main job is performing surgery, and he wants me to wait. How many times do you hear a surgeon say, 'Hold off on surgery?' That's unheard of!"

Dr. Sah proceeded to treat Mike with cortisone injections to provide relief from the pain. Mike also would see Dr. Sah occasionally at the ice rink where their two sons played hockey together.

"I would talk with Dr. Sah at the ice rink, and he was always very personable and approachable," Mike says. "He always answered any and all questions and just told me to wait it out as long as I could. I took his advice."

In the meantime, Glen was developing symptoms of hip problems, too, and he began seeing Dr. Sah in November 2010.

"The pain would move around," Glen explains. "Sometimes it was in my hip; sometimes it was in the groin area. When it kept getting worse, I went to my regular doctor, who took X-rays and diagnosed arthritis in my left hip. I had heard about Dr. Sah and Dr. Dearborn from Mike, as well as one of my deli customers who had gone through a hip replacement. So I took my X-rays to Dr. Sah, and he said I was a candidate for hip replacement, too. Then he told me just what he had told Mike - that I would know when it was the right time to have the surgery. He was right."

Glen put his surgery off for two years.

"I got several massages, and they didn't help," he says. "Exercising didn't make it any better. I ate ibuprophen like candy, and ended up with stomach ulcers. Then I got a few cortisone injections that provided temporary relief, including one injection last July just before my wife Victoria and I went on vacation to Montreal - where my parents had lived years ago and where I was born. The relief from that injection lasted only for the week we were in Montreal.

"It got so that I had trouble lifting my leg, and I had a severe limp," Glen continues. "Nothing relieved the pain, and I got tired of having people ask me why I was limping. I considered trying surgery to have the hip joint resurfaced, but I figured it would just postpone the need for a hip replacement. I didn't want to go through surgery twice."

For arthritic damage to the hip joint, Dr. Sah and his colleague Dr. Dearborn believe total hip replacement is a less invasive and more effective option than "resurfacing" procedures that involve grinding down the surface of the thighbone and inserting an implant. Resurfacing implants, they note, are not as durable as total hip implants. Also, today's techniques for minimally invasive hip replacement surgery dramatically reduce the amount of post-operative pain and significantly shorten the hospital stay and recovery period.

Glen and Mike both finally reached the point Dr. Sah had predicted: They knew it was time for hip replacement.

Part 2 of the Lenhart Brothers' Story

Learn how the brothers fared after their hip replacement surgeries. In part 2, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Tri-City Voice, Mike and Glen discuss how they prepared for their surgeries and the impact of total hip replacement on each of their lives.

Do You Have Achy Knees?

To help people in the community learn more about osteoarthritis and the latest advances in knee replacement surgery, Washington Hospital is sponsoring a free Health & Wellness seminar featuring Dr. Sah and his fellow orthopedic surgeon and medical co-director of the Institute for Joint Restoration and Research, Dr. John Dearborn. The seminar is scheduled for Friday, April 12 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium in the Washington West Building at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Register online at www.whhs.com/event/class-registration.