“The pain would usually start in the middle of a run and it would basically feel like someone was stabbing me in the hip, and it would last for hours afterwards,” she recalls. “By the end of a race, I was usually in tears.”
She tried to ignore it, tried going to a chiropractor, and tried years of physical therapy, but the pain persisted. Physicians at a nearby adult sports medicine center told her that if she wanted to run, she would have to deal with the pain until she was in her 30s, at which time she would likely need a hip replacement.
By the end of Stephanie’s senior year of high school, she was in constant pain, whether she was running, walking, standing or sleeping. Stephanie was referred to the newly opened Young Adult Hip Preservation Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), a unique program designed to treat young adults (age 15 to mid-30s) with complex hip disorders.
Reconstruct, not replace
Rather than looking to replace the natural hip with an artificial one — as most adult providers do — the Young Adult Hip Preservation Program seeks to enhance or reconstruct the natural hip and hip socket.
“There's really no program like ours in the region that is comprehensive in its approach to both adolescents and young adults, which offers the whole breadth of both nonsurgical and surgical options for the treatment of these types of hip pain,” says Wudbhav N. Sankar, MD, the program’s founder and director.
Dr. Sankar evaluated Stephanie and diagnosed her with acetabular dysplasia, an abnormally shallow hip socket that leads to excessive pressure on the rim of the hip socket. He recommended she undergo a Ganz periacetabular osteotomy, a complicated surgery that repositions the hip socket and preserves the hip joint.
The surgery lets patients return to an active lifestyle, and in many cases eliminates the need for an artificial hip replacement later in life. “He gave me an alternative that I never thought possible,” says Stephanie. “I was really excited to be able to experience life pain-free.”
Stephanie had the surgery and went home on crutches five days later. During her 10 weeks of recovery, she began rebuilding her strength through physical therapy.
Four months after surgery, Stephanie was running again. Six months after surgery, she was training for the 10-mile Broad Street Run, a distance she hadn’t been able to run in years. Looking back on that first run post-hip preservation still amazes her.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, getting myself from not being able to walk to being able to run 10 miles,” she says. “It was an amazing feeling to cross that finish line and stop running and not be in pain.”
Now a student at Drexel University studying elementary and special education, Stephanie is back to the active lifestyle she has always loved. She recently completed a half marathon and has more races planned for the future.
“Stephanie is doing great,” says Dr. Sankar. “She’s active. She’s back to doing what she loves, which is running. Seeing Stephanie being active is the best feeling as a physician. It's really what you wake up for in the morning when you come to work. You just want to make people better.”
Stephanie adds, “I can't say enough good things about CHOP. From the nurses to the receptionists, to physical therapy to Dr. Sankar, to everybody involved in the surgery — and there's a huge team — they changed my life.”