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Robotic hip replacements helping younger patients become pain-free earlier in life

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hip and knee replacement surgeries have long been considered the ailments of age, but patients seeking replacement parts these days are getting younger and younger.

KDKA’s John Shumway is here with the changing face of joint replacements.

While the majority of replacement patients are still over the age of 60, the technology and materials are making it more viable for younger patients in pain.

Sarah Shue Grimm and her family had the idealic life going with one exception — Sarah was living with the price of her athletic and cheerleading background pain.

“I’d already had two knee surgeries,” Shue Grimm said. “I had just kind of expected it was, you know, the tendinitis part of just being a former athlete.”

She lived with it through pregnancy but when her son Brooks was about four months old, she was carrying him up the stairs when her hip completely started to give out.

“At that point, I realized it was no longer about me,” Shue Grimm said. “And I went to the doctor, and they said this, you have severe arthritis, and you need a hip replacement.”

Her immediate thought was that at age 40, she was too young for it.

“I think we across the board as hip and knee reconstruction surgeons are seeing more and more young people come to us with bad arthritis or bad pathology that leads them to the need for a joint replacement,” said Dr. Erik Yakish, a hip and knee replacement specialist with Allegheny Health Network.

Dr. Yakish was Sarah’s surgeon and he says that joint pain is blind to age.

“It gets harder and harder I think for that individual to just enjoy getting up in the morning and getting through the day,” Dr. Yakish said.

“I can no longer pick up my son,” Shue Grimm said. “He’s a toddler. He wants to be held, he wants to be rocked.”

For Sarah, despite steroid injections and physical therapy, the breaking point came last Halloween.

“My son is two at this point and I couldn’t go trick or treating with them.” Shue Grimm said.

In January, with Dr. Yakish on the very precise instruments, Sarah underwent robotic hip replacement surgery.

“You do it on the computer before you’ve done the surgery,” Dr. Yakish said. “And from there, it’s just instrumenting everything.”

“I think it takes a lot of concerns away,” Shue Grimm said. “I will say, my scar is very, very small.”

Sarah and Dr. Yakish know that her new joint may have to be redone in 20 to 25 years, but Sarah says she wishes she didn’t wait and actually wishes she had it done sooner.

On surgery day, Sarah arrived at the hospital at 9 a.m. and was home by 4:30 that afternoon.

Dr. Yakish says he also does robotic surgery on knees and AHN is doing outpatient shoulder replacement surgery, as well.

As far as how Sarah is doing now, she still does physical therapy two times per week but her walker and cane are gone, and so is the pain.