Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hip Resurfacing

Stephanie Sedlmayr didn’t want to spend the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to get the hip surgery she needed. And she didn’t have insurance, either. So with her daughter by her side, she flew from Vero Beach, Fla., to the Apollo Hospital in Chennai. She’d never been to India before, but she already knew quite a bit about Indian doctors

"My doctor, actually, in Vero Beach, she's an Indian doctor. So, why not go where they come from?" asks Sedlmayr, who says her friends questioned her decision. "Hardly anybody said, 'Oh, great idea.'"

But she didn’t just come here to save money; she came for an operation she couldn’t get at home. It’s called hip resurfacing, and it has changed people’s lives.

It hasn’t been approved yet by the FDA, but in India, Dr. Vijay Bose has performed over 300 of them. He showed 60 Minutes the difference between a hip resurfacing and hip replacement, which is the standard operation performed in the United States. He says his patients usually recover faster because his procedure is far less radical and doesn’t involve cutting the thighbone.

Instead, Bose fits a metal cap over the end, which fits into a metal socket in the hip. The result, he says, is that patients end up with enough mobility to do virtually anything.

"So my patients, you know, play football, basketball, whatever you want. Not a problem," says Bose.

Until the FDA approves it, the only way to have this operation in the United States is by getting into a clinical trial. But be warned: It isn’t cheap.

How much does it cost in the States?

"I believe it costs something from $28,000 to $32,000 U.S. dollars," says Bose.

And in India, Sedlmayr says it costs $5,800: "Private nurse after surgery. And, feeling always that they were just totally attentive. If you rang the bell next to your bed, whoop, somebody was there immediately."

Sound too good to be true? Don't forget: It’s at least a 20-hour trip, there is malaria in parts of India, patients have complained of intestinal disorders -- and if something goes wrong, you could end up suing for malpractice in an Indian court.

And one could only wish you the best of luck. But Sedlmayr feels she’s already had more luck than she had any right to expect. By the time 60 Minutes left India, she was into the tourism part of her treatment, convalescing at a seaside resort an hour’s drive from the hospital.

"Is this standard, that when somebody gets surgery at the hospital to come to a resort like this afterwards?" asks Simon.

"Yeah, they suggest it. They recommend it," says Sedlmayr. "[It cost] $140 day for myself and my daughter, including an enormous fabulous breakfast that they serve until 10:30."

"I think a lot of people seeing you sitting here and what's usually called post op, and hearing your tales of what the operation was like, are going to start thinking about India," says Simon.

"Yeah, and combining surgery and paradise," says Sedlmayr.
(source: CBS News, Sep 4, 2005)

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