Little-Known Hip Problem Causes Years of Pain for Many
(New York, NY. Jan. 27, 2005). A difficult-to-diagnose hip problem is causing pain and limiting the activities of many people who go from doctor to doctor seeking relief. The problem, called a labral tear, can be compared to a torn cartilage in the knee. Left untreated, a labral tear can cause the hip joint to deteriorate and can eventually lead to arthritis, says Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. As time goes by, the pain gets worse.
Just ask Tracey Kuhlin. Over a four-year period, the 42-year-old court reporter didn't go a day without pain. What started as an ache in her buttocks got progressively worse, traveling to her right hip. "One wrong move, and a sharp, stabbing pain shot through my hip," she said. "It was every day... every single day. And because of it, I could not live the life I wanted to live."
Before the pain began, Kuhlin was the picture of health. At 38, she completed a triathlon-a 56-mile bike ride, 13-mile run and 1.2-mile swim. Once the pain took hold, she could barely take a step without feeling it. In less than four years, she saw five orthopedic surgeons and tried countless treatments, to no avail. Doctors told her she would have to live with it, but she persevered.
While searching for answers on the Internet, she found out about Dr. Westrich, a specialist in diagnosing and treating hip injuries. Westrich says it's not uncommon for people with labral tears to go for years without the right diagnosis because standard diagnostic imaging tests do not provide enough detail to show a labral tear. At the Hospital for Special Surgery, a special high-resolution MRI showed Tracey's torn labrum, finally giving her the answer she so desperately sought.
The labrum is a ring of cartilage that lines the rim of bones in the hip joint. Like a gasket, the labrum serves to cushion the joint. If it tears, often the result of an injury, it can cause pain, often in the inner hip area, and sometimes in the front and back of the hip.
"This type of pain, along with catching or locking in the joint, are common symptoms of a labral tear," says Westrich, who performed minimally invasive hip surgery to repair Kuhlin's torn labrum. She left the hospital on crutches the same day and a short time later said the pain was gone. Now she's hoping to get back to her "century" bike rides-100 miles-without pain.
"Tracey's experience is similar to that of many patients who come to us," says Westrich. "Many have had the problem for quite a while, and over time, it usually gets worse." He says anyone experiencing hip pain should make sure it is properly diagnosed and treated. As the joint deteriorates and the pain worsens, some people end up with arthritis and eventually need a hip replacement. For more information, visit www.westrichmd.com.