Netherlands native celebrates her new city and her new hip

Featured patient: Rachel Gähler
Young Adult Hip — Hip Replacement

Rachel Gähler began having hip pain in her early twenties. A doctor in Amsterdam diagnosed the Netherlands native with hip dysplasia. Her hip socket did not completely cover the ball portion of her upper thigh bone. “The proposed treatment involved an intense surgery and several months of recovery,” said Rachel. “I had a young daughter and a busy career so I decided to wait.”

Life continued. So did the pain. Several years later, a career opportunity brought Rachel and her family to Missouri. “By that point, I was waking up at least three times a night with hip pain. It was time to do something about it,” said Rachel. “On my first trip to St. Louis, I heard a lot about Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. I knew it was the best place for my health.”

The Hip and Knee Joint Replacement Program at Washington University Orthopedics and Barnes-Jewish Hospital is nationally recognized for exceptional quality and innovative patient care resulting in better long-term outcomes and fewer complications after surgery. The program recently expanded to the campus of Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, one mile from I-270 on Olive Boulevard and Mason Road.

Rachel met with John Clohisy, MD, a Washington University orthopedic surgeon and chief of Adult Reconstructive Surgery Service, to learn her options. Together, they agreed replacing her ailing hip would provide the most reliable outcome and the best chance at easing Rachel's pain. Rachel underwent her hip replacement  surgery at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital a few months after she moved to St. Louis.

“Over the past 10 years, hip replacement surgery has improved remarkably in terms of patient recovery,” said Dr. Clohisy. “For a patient like Rachel, we use a variety of things to accelerate recovery: less invasive surgical techniques, regional anesthesia and multi-modality pain management, which helps patients bounce back quicker with less pain.”

Accelerated physical rehabilitation, including early mobilization also facilitates a quicker recovery. Patients are generally up and walking the day of their surgery and return to functional activities quicker.

University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC) compares academic medical centers across the country. UHC data shows patients of the Hip and Knee Joint Replacement Program at Washington University Orthopedics and Barnes-Jewish Hospital have the shortest hospital stays of one to two nights, regardless of whether they had knee or hip surgery. The program also prides itself on low complication rates and high-quality care.  

Contributing to its success is a large, multi-disciplinary care team including eleven knee and hip surgeons, anesthesia providers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nurse managers, nurse coordinators, medical assistants and more. The unique team-based approach begins after the patient’s first appointment and continues through the full course of treatment to ensure accountability in all aspects of care.

All patients at both the flagship Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital must have a friend or family member (“joint coach”) by their side who assists with daily care throughout the process. The joint coach attends a class provided by the program to help ensure a successful outcome.

The expansion to Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital provides an excellent option for patients who prefer a smaller, community setting. “It is a very exciting opportunity,” said Dr. Clohisy. “It gives us the potential to expand our practice in a smaller hospital environment and to build on an extremely high quality, efficient total joint replacement program.”

After several weeks of recovery and rehabilitation, Rachel returned to work and to a life without pain. "I am 45 years old. I never expected to be so young and have a new hip. But, I couldn't be happier," said Rachel. “I know I will be turning 90 with this hip.”

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