An Active Life, Restored

Experiencing the benefits of highly specialized orthopedic surgery at UC San Diego Health

 

Sixty-five-year-old San Diegan Mark Collins enjoys meeting up with his hiking buddies once a week for a long local hike. Many are retired or semi-retired like himself. Twice a year, they travel to places such as Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon for a real challenge: full days of invigorating and breath-taking hikes.

“I’m probably healthier now than I was in my 30s, when I was working all the time and not taking as good care of myself,” he said.

But when hip pain started making it impossible to do the things he loved, he decided it was time to consider surgery.

“This was unknown territory for me,” said Mark. “I’ve had people tell me there are different outcomes of hip replacement surgery, depending on the shape you’re in. I decided early on to go in strong. I kept working out and trying to keep my weight manageable. I was ready because I was in pain. I decided it was gonna go great.”

Mark had heard about outstanding hip replacement outcomes for patients of Dr. Scott Ball, an orthopedic surgeon at UC San Diego Health and Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. When Mark first met Dr. Ball, he appreciated his straightforward guidance on the details of the procedure and the options he thought would suit Mark best.

“Dr. Ball told me ‘If you just want to be able to walk through a parking lot from your car to the store, that’s not what we do here. You’re going to be sending me pictures from the Grand Canyon.’

“It was a piece of cake. I went in at seven o’clock, the surgery was at eight, and I was in recovery by ten or eleven.”

Within a few days, Mark was walking again – pain-free for the first time in years. Within a week, he was driving and getting back to normal activities. Seven months after surgery, he was at the Grand Canyon making the 18-mile trek to the bottom and up again.

“What I experienced was just overall excellence. I’m so grateful and indebted to him that if Dr. Ball called me up and said, ‘Hey, wash my car,’ I’d do it.”

Instead, Mark shows his gratitude in a much more valuable way: by sharing his experience at UC San Diego Health’s pre-operative informational sessions for others preparing for hip replacement surgery. His hope is to be a resource to fellow patients and to offer reassurance to those who, like him, were hesitant to opt for surgery but could no longer bear the pain.

“Sometimes my patients say, ‘I need to talk to someone who’s been through this,’” said Dr. Ball. “There are many misconceptions about hip replacement options online, which can confuse patients. What’s important is building trust with your doctor. My interest, first and foremost, is a great outcome and low risk of complications. After that, I want to choose the least invasive procedure possible.”

Dr. Ball performs both direct anterior and minimally-invasive posterior hip replacement surgeries, offering the optimal approach for each situation.

“We individualize treatment and decide on the procedure that will best mitigate complications and maximize recovery. At UC San Diego Health, you get specialized care. Our surgeons performing hip replacements are all specialists who have completed fellowships specifically in this area. We care about the details, and we’re shooting for perfection. Across the board, we have rapid recoveries.”

Hip replacement surgery is the number-one most successful surgery in terms of restoring function and returning people to their previous lifestyles, followed by cataracts surgery, heart bypass surgery and total knee replacement.

“If you’re in pain and have reached the point where you can’t do what you need to do, the surgery will be life-changing. The risk of complication is very small, and most of my patients tell me they often forget they even had surgery. They can do whatever they want.”

Based on his personal experience, Mark advises that, “if you truly want to maintain an active, pain-free lifestyle and this is holding you back, I trust anyone in that department to make it better. Bill Walton did, and wrote about it in his book. His story is powerful. He’s a sports and cultural icon and I’m just a regular guy, but I hope my experience can offer some encouragement.”

Dr. Ball’s advice? “Find a specialist. Find someone who is absolutely committed to restoring hip function. We offer not only specialized surgeons who really care, but a specially trained team of nurses and techs. It takes all that.”

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