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Faulty hip replacement could cause different leg lengths

Published On: Feb 17 2014 05:52:47 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 17 2014 05:53:25 PM CST

Doctors perform more than 300-thousand hip replacement surgeries each year.       And experts say that number could double over the next 20 years.  Complications of hip replacement include one leg being longer or shorter than the other.  This little known problem can carry some big consequences.   

There was a huge difference in the length of Chuck Westendorf's legs just after a total hip replacement surgery...a one-and-a-half inch difference in his limbs.   He's not alone. studies show leg length inequalities are a preventable mistake that account for nearly five-percent of all medical errors.   

Doctors say it's a growing problem and a growing surgical procedure.   Hip Revisionist, Dr. Henry Finn says about a third of hip replacement patients will have an obvious difference in lengths, which may lead to hip and back pain.  

His best advice?    Know your surgeons level of experience and ask the right questions.    Ask your surgeon what they do to assure that their leg lengths are going to be as close as possible?   And if there is a problem, Dr. Finn says  "early intervention is critical in these situations."   

Chuck went to see Dr. Finn just a few weeks after his surgery at another hospital and his problem was solved.    "I feel just blessed uh, being able to have an opportunity to, uh, live a normal day," said Chuck.   According to his wife,  "it's overwhelming. it brings tears to our eyes every time. we just feel like we owe his life to Dr. Finn for what he did for him."  

Now, Chuck is free to walk tall again.   In some cases, a heel lift may be all that's needed to fix a minor discrepancy in leg length.  If it's an obvious difference, Dr. Finn recommends having revision surgery within the first six weeks if possible, so the bone hasn't had a chance to fuse.