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Tom's Hip Replacement Surgery Story

by UPMC Susquehanna

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Tom Olivo, 60, could have gone anywhere for hip-replacement surgery, and he chose UPMC Susquehanna.

This elite athlete is also a health care consultant who studies performance data from hundreds of health systems across the country. When he searched for the medical center with the best odds of returning him to peak performance, UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport came out on top. “I am in the business of measuring the outcomes that health care systems achieve, and a unique part of what we measure is the causal links between leadership effectiveness, a healthy culture, and consistent patient outcomes,” says Tom, who is a founding partner of Health Performance Solutions and president of Success Profiles, Inc. “I chose to have an elective joint-replacement surgery 2,000 miles away from home because UPMC Susquehanna is in the top 10 percent for those measures.”

A competitor and former coach who has worked with Olympic athletes, Tom places a premium on his mobility. With the vigor of a 30-year-old, he exercises about 90 minutes a day in a variety of activities, including trail running, cycling, climbing, and his lifelong passion — fly fishing. Tom’s left hip problem developed suddenly last spring following a right leg Achilles tendon tear. An alignment issue combined with serious wear and tear from thousands of demanding miles logged on his legs required prompt treatment if he was going to continue at the pace he enjoyed. “I’m more than recreationally active, and if you’d told me a year ago that I was headed for hip replacement I wouldn’t have believed it,” Tom says. “But my injury set things in motion, and once I recognized that I needed the procedure to maintain functionality, I was going to make sure I stacked the odds in my favor.”

For Tom, stacking the odds began with selecting the right surgeon and location for his procedure. Based on his research, Tom wanted a surgeon who would use the anterior approach, a relatively new, tissue-sparing technique for hip replacement that allows the surgeon to work between the hip muscles and leave them relatively undisturbed. This method, which is offered at UPMC Susquehanna using equipment purchased through the Foundation, can be used for patients who meet certain criteria and typically has a faster recovery time with fewer restrictions and less pain and scarring. Dr. Ronald DiSimone, FACS, of UPMC Susquehanna Orthopaedics, was Tom’s student in a year-long physician leadership academy.

Tom respected Dr. DiSimone’s leadership skills and work style, and he also knew Dr. DiSimone performed hundreds of hip replacements using the anterior approach with excellent results. Additional data pointed Tom to UPMC Susquehanna’s joint-replacement program, including results of a rigorous review of care standards and requirements that recently earned the program the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Total Hip and Total Knee Joint Replacement Certification — a symbol of quality reflecting UPMC Susquehanna’s commitment to provide safe and effective patient care.

Determining the best place to have his hip replacement satisfied what Tom considers to be the first third of the ingredients needed for success. He placed responsibility for the other two-thirds — preparation and rehabilitation — largely on himself.

Although he was in significant pain, Tom dedicated the two months prior to his procedure to building and maintaining his strength and mobility. Because he doesn’t live in northcentral Pennsylvania, he did not participate in the Joint Center’s pre-surgical seminar, but he strongly recommends that patients in the area who are having hip-replacement surgery do whatever they can to prepare for their procedures, including attending the class.

The final third began the day Dr. DiSimone replaced Tom’s hip joint, and then when Tom took his first steps using his new hip. Although he believed he was prepared for the level of demand he could place on his new joint, Tom appreciated and was moved by the focus his caregivers provided as he began his rehabilitation. “I noticed it right away during my first physical therapy session,” Tom says. “My caregivers were acutely aware of all of the indicators and carefully monitored my balance, my gait, and my facial expressions, so they could immediately detect any problems and prevent me from doing anything that would have a negative impact on my outcomes.”

At first, the level of attention made him uncomfortable, until he recognized it as a staple of the Joint Center’s exceptional care. “The focus that every care provider gave — asking questions and truly listening and watching me for cues — made an impression. Typically, doctors and nurses have so much on their plate, but that didn’t feel like the case at all. The eye contact, observing my body language — that really stood out,” Tom says. With his procedure taking place in August, Tom’s goal was to recover in time to go fly fishing six weeks later at Yellowstone National Park, which he was able to do thanks to his laser focus on recovery. “Now, after five months of post-surgery rehab, I can’t even feel a difference between my left and right hip,” he says.

“I have to stop and think that there is a foreign body attached to the largest bone in my body, because there’s absolutely no difference.” Hoping to put off replacement of his other hip for a couple of years, Tom is fairly certain he will return to UPMC Susquehanna for his care. “There are plenty of people I spoke to who couldn’t believe I was travelling 2,000 miles to Pennsylvania for this surgery,” Tom says. “My priority was to get the best care possible, and this is where the data pointed me. If the people who live in this region had the information I had, they wouldn’t think of going anywhere else.”