Heart Physician Walks Same Day as Hip Replacement Surgery

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Joint Replacement
Mervyn Ellestad, M.D.

Mervyn H. Ellestad, M.D., 90, lives an active healthy lifestyle - a philosophy he's bestowed upon his patients for years. Dr. Ellestad is an original pioneer in the field of cardiology, author of more than 183 scientific articles, 44 cardiology book chapters and whose works are required reading for cardiology students. Apart from the "firsts" in the world of cardiology that Dr. Ellestad led, he enjoys playing tennis and exercises regularly. At 90-years-old Dr. Ellestad is the Emeritus director of Cardiology at the MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial.

While out playing tennis with some friends Dr. Ellestad noticed his body was a little stiff but he thought nothing of it. As they started their match, the stiffness worsened and was accompanied with an onset flare of sharp waves of pain in his hip. The pain and stiffness was unrelenting. Dr. Ellestad knew he had to get his hip looked at, so he went in for an x-ray.

The x-ray results showed that the damage to his hip was significant. A lifetime of high-impact sports and activity had set the stage for osteoarthritis of the hip.

"The disorder develops when there's a deterioration of articular cartilage on the ends ball and socket, compromising joint motion. If the condition advances to bone-on-bone, severe pain often results," says Douglas Garland, M.D., medical director, MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Memorial.

Once he learned of his condition, Dr. Ellestad turned to the MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Memorial to regain his mobility and active lifestyle back. Although Dr. Ellestad has worked at Long Beach Memorial for years, the Joint Replacement Center was a newer hospital program. He had learned that the Joint Replacement Center has a revolutionary approach where early and frequent movement is encouraged for patients as part of their rehabilitation. A philosophy he has shared in life and career.

"I realized that my hip pain was not going to go away on its own, and if I waited it would only get worse," says Dr. Ellestad.

Dr. Ellestad set up a consultation at the place he knew would take great care of him - Long Beach Memorial. After his appointment with Dr. Garland, it was decided that his right hip needed to be replaced.

"A total hip replacement involves replacing the worn out surfaces of the hip and replacing it with a metal ball and cup," says Dr. Garland "Hip replacement can reduce or eliminate pain, allow easier movement and get you back to your life."

The MemorialCare Joint Replacement Center at Long Beach Memorial offers a comprehensive inpatient program with a focus on mobility and wellness where patients get back on their feet the same day of surgery. The Joint Replacement Center houses leading orthopedic surgeons dedicated to getting patients back to their active lifestyles. The Joint Replacement Center offers a rapid recovery program designed to encourage patients to be active during their hospital stay, with 70% of patients back to their active lifestyles within six weeks.

Also family members are welcome to become part of the recovery, acting as rehab coaches to joint replacement patients leading to a faster recovery. Physical therapy, which is critical to recovery, starts almost immediately after surgery and continues throughout the patient's hospitalization in group settings twice per day as well as individual sessions.

On the day of his surgery, Dr. Ellestad was in his hospital room by Noon and up walking by 3 p.m. During the next two days he worked with physical therapists to regain his strength and flexibility, also having a chance to sign some books on the floor for some of his fans. As part of his rehabilitation he learned how to climb steps using a cane in preparation for his return home. He went home three days after his surgery and was able to walk 300 feet with a walker. The Joint Replacement Center stands apart, because it not only reduces hospitalization time, but it reduces the chances of patients having to go to a rehabilitation nursing facility.

"I was surprised I experienced so little pain," Dr. Ellestad says. The 90-year-old hip replacement patient returned to work 10 days after his surgery. Today, Dr. Ellestad is back to his active lifestyle, long-distance walking and regular exercise.

"Joint replacement techniques and prostheses have improved tremendously over the past 10 years, surgeries are less invasive and advanced prosthesis's are more durable and longer lasting," says Dr. Garland. "The advancement in joint replacement surgery is allowing us to restore individuals to greater mobility with little to no pain. And more importantly, it gets people back to the active lifestyles they enjoyed before their pain. Hip replacement surgery is no longer an active life-ending surgery, at least,  not on our watch."