Patient Stories


Hi, I’m Heather and I started having hip pain just after my 16th birthday. It started after I jumped down a water slide, in February 2011, and felt a pop in my hip. I couldn’t lift my leg more than 6 inches off the ground. I thought that this was a muscle strain or tear so I took it easy that week in both dance and track. After two weeks everything seemed better, although running was still painful. During the summer, I competed in my regular swim team meets with no pain. In the fall, I was back to cheerleading and dancing with almost no pain, but then in November my hip pain started exponentially increasing. I went to a local town doctor who”confirmed” my injury as a muscle tear. I was told to take a 6 week break from all activities. The pain just got worse walking, sitting, and any activity put me in more pain. From there I got x-rays, an MRI, and a CT scan. After being referred to 6 more doctors with varying ranges of ideas on my hip, I finally was referred to Dr. Sierra at the Mayo clinic in Rochester, MN.

Dr. Sierra requested another MRI and CT scan with their higher quality machines. These led him to find that I had torn my labrum in my right hip multiple times. He also diagnosed me with mild to severe hip displasia. He gave me the option to get the arthroscopic surgery to fix the tears or to get the PAO. I chose to start with the arthroscopic hip surgery in the hopes that the pain would be gone when the labrum had healed.

So in the summer after I turned 17 I received my first surgery. I was out of the hospital the same day. I was on crutches for 6 weeks and then never ending physical therapy, because I felt a new pain. The labrum had healed, but the stress on my joint had become more prominent. I went back for my one year check up, and the doctor knew that I would need the PAO.

So I geared up for my second surgery. The surgery took about 3 hours and I was in the hospital for 5 days. This was an extra two days compared to the typical teen patient. This was caused by too much medication. For the surgery I received an epidual for the pain, but not as a shot but a continuous stream of the medication into the spinal area for 3 days. The doctor knew that the dose was much too high when on the second day I still couldn’t even wiggle my toes. The epidural was turned off, but it took me longer to recover than normal because of this.

Post-op is difficult when the joint is restricted to less than 90 degrees. This means for the first couple weeks I needed help sitting down, getting out of bed, putting on shoes, picking things up, not to mention trying to put on pants. This all got better after about 3 weeks. I went to physical therapy for 5 months during my recovery, I regained my balance and muscle strength, but I never progressed to high impact activities without a medium amount of pain. So being my first semester of college I started walking more and doing yoga.

At this point my pain was mostly nonexistent, as long as I avoided my favorites activities of dancing and running. So at my PAO 1 year follow up the doctor checked my x-rays carefully. He discovered that my hip had only grown back together at two of the three cuts made. This has a less than10% chance of happening, but is a known risk of the surgery. Dr. Sierra suggested it may grow together eventually, but it may never fully heal. At this time, I was also experiencing pain with the screws in my hip. With the freedom to exercise I lost about 10 pounds, this caused my screw to stick out about 1/4 of an inch under my skin. My jeans caught on it and bruised it from the waistband. I would occasionally hit it on counters and chairs. So this last winter break I choose to have my screws removed.

My doctor said this is quite unusual, as I was his 7th screw removal out of around 75 of his PAO patients. This was my last surgery. The surgery itself lasted about an hour, and then I was in recovery for about 3 hours. I was given Tylenol and could walk out of the hospital with minimal discomfort and no crutches. I had two screws removed and the small pain in my hip is getting better.

Overall I recommend talking with your doctor about which surgery and in which order is best for your situation. I was lucky enough to have all of my surgeries during school break so that I was mostly recovered before returning. My doctor was able to take my displastic hip from 19 degrees of coverage to 28 degrees. This has greatly taken away my hip pain. My other hip is within the normal range of 25-35 degrees of coverage.

Each individual journey is filled with its own trials and success. Many people my age have had 100% full recoveries back to sports, but there is a small chance that the pain will be mostly gone but you won’t be 100% fixed. To me it was worth the surgery process to be able to walk, swim, practice yoga, and live without pain in those activities, rather than to suffer in pain scared that the surgery didn’t guarantee me to be the active person I was used to being.

Every individual that goes through this process is scared of this giant decision looming in front of them. It is up to you to decide if the risk is worth it. The recovery is long and there is a chance that it won’t work exactly how you had hoped. I have grown and matured so much from this process and I could never have done it without great support and my faith in God and his plan. I am happy to say that my journey is over with success in my eyes. To those of you still on your journey, best of luck and know that things will get better.