BOZEMAN, Mont. - One Bozeman doctor is on the frontlines of a revolutionary procedure that could relieve extreme hip pain without the major complications most methods use.
If you have certain genes or are involved in high-intensity sports like ballet or karate, you're more likely to have hip pain. One reason this might be happening: you're experiencing impingement, when tendons, muscles, or bones push into one another. Untreated, it can lead to arthritis.
It normally starts to become a problem as young athletes like Bozeman High freshman Ethan Monforton - now eight years into his karate training - grow.
“It restricted my ability to perform the best that I could, and so that was disappointing in a way," says Monforton. "It just hindered to do basic things.”
The 14-year-old couldn't even sit in a car too long without pain in his hips. When Monforton and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Ferrell exhausted all of the nonoperative options, there was only one way left to get Monforton up and kicking again.
A popular way of treating this is a surgery called hip arthroscopy, or hip preservation surgery. Doctors need to shave down the bone on the "ball" at the top of the leg so it stops rubbing against the hip socket.
"In order to get in there safely we have to distract or pull traction on the leg to create space so that we can get in there safely," says Dr. Ferrell, who practices at Bridger Orthopedic. "That required a special table with a little well-padded post here that would go between the patient’s legs.”
The post gives doctors something to pull against, but it's also like putting an 80-100 pound kettle bell on the groin, one of the most sensitive parts of the body. The "post" method leaving almost a third of patients with severe complications, like numbness of sexual dysfunction.
The invention of new technology eliminates the use of the post and all of the complications that go along with it. Dr. Ferrel is using a new machine, the Stryker Pivot Guardian, that takes away that risk, is much less invasive, and inflicts less damage on the tissues. A study of 1,000 surgeries performed with this new method showed that zero patients came out with groin-area complications.
And new software is allowing Dr. Ferrell to better see exactly how much bone needs to be removed in real time. This new technology ensures the right outcome in one try.
“It tells us exactly where the bone is that we need to remove," Dr. Ferrell explains.
He is the only person in Montana using the Pivot Guardian machine and HipCheck software by Stryker. Patients have come from across the country to have the procedure done with Dr. Ferrell.
He believes in the technology so strongly that he can't justify performing the surgery without it.
“I saw such a difference not using the post I don’t think it’s right for our patients to do hip arthroscopy using the post anymore," says Dr. Ferrell. "It’s safer and it’s better for our patients.”
With six months of post-op recovery behind him, Ethan Monforton is ready to step back onto the mat on Tuesday for the first time since his surgery.
“It’s been really nice to just do sports and stuff without the pain that I usually have or the pain I had before the surgery," Monforton, who is just months away from his black belt, says.