Saturday, November 29, 2008

I’m over 40 … and my timing stinks

A new study was published which concludes that the outcome of PAO for patients over 40 is “not as good as” the outcome of total hip replacements. While it doesn’t say the outcome with PAO is “bad,” for an insurance company this is denial fodder worth its weight in gold.

Thanks guys, please kick me while I’m down.

As of November 1st, my insurance company, along with most others, has unilaterally decided not to pay for PAOs. This probably means that they WILL pay for some, if you make a really great case on appeal, but that by and large they consider this rare operation, which has helped women for 30 years, to be “investigational.” Not enough large studies have been done. Hmmm, how many is “enough”? There are quite a few small studies that I’ve read, but how can anyone do a large study when this surgery is so rare? This isn’t like diabetes or heart disease – run of the mill maladies which every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to have nowadays. And oh, by the way, Tom, Dick and Harry probably don’t have hip dysplasia because the vast majority of people with this condition are WOMEN. We all know what whiners women are … with their subjective complaints and all. Those women, they want special, expensive surgery for all their silly little problems … we big insurers need to let them know that we know what’s best for them!

Believe me, if I could have a total hip replacement or resurfacing instead of a PAO I’d be overjoyed. Recovery time for THR is short, and one is only in the hospital for a couple of days. I’d be walking and full weight bearing the day after surgery, and probably skating again within months. Not that THR is a cakewalk, but compared to PAO it’s “hip surgery lite.”

The problem is that my dysplasia is on the severe side, and it’s coupled with severe anteversion. THRs are not designed for people built like me. They, and their cousin the hip resurfacing, are designed for people whose hips are fairly normal in mechanical construction, with perhaps small abnormalities, but which are diseased or worn out. While there is a “dysplasia cap” available for hip resurfacing, again, it is not designed for severe cases. Two experts have now told me that my best course of action is PAO, based on the severity of my mechanical imbalance and the fact that my hip joint is basically healthy. Why would I remove and replace a healthy joint! Why would anyone do that? It seems obvious to me that correcting the structural imbalance, preserving the joint, and avoiding multiple revision surgeries is my best course of action. I’m seeking a third opinion. How many expert opinions do I need to override Aetna’s blanket policy?

I will add that I am not your typical 45 year old. I like to think that I am in better physical shape than most. I am not overweight. I am very muscular. I have exercised all my life. What about the over 40 patients in the new study? How many of them were like me? Is the only thing we have in common that we are "middle aged"? Yes, I am over 40, but my life isn’t over yet. I’m not ready to take up knitting or lawn bowling. MY PERFECTLY HEALTHY HIP JOINT SPACES DO NOT NEED TO BE REPLACED … that is not my problem, oh stupid insurance company flunkie reading my file. What I need is better femoral coverage. Isn’t the solution obvious?

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