Former hospital executive gains new perspective (and new hip)

Less invasive approach leads to faster recovery.

A few years ago, Tony Herdener, Northeast Georgia Health System’s (NGHS) former chief financial officer, thought he’d pulled a muscle in his leg. But in typical Tony fashion, the self-proclaimed handyman tried to work through it and keep going. He soon learned the pain he was having was a symptom of hip arthritis – a much larger problem that wouldn’t fix itself.

Tony decided to visit Dr. Michael Gottsman, a veteran orthopedic surgeon with Longstreet Clinic Orthopedics. Dr. Gottsman had previously treated him for a knee problem, so Tony knew he could trust him to get him back to his busy lifestyle quickly.

Diagnostic tests confirmed Tony had arthritis, so together, Tony and Dr. Gottsman weighed the treatment options.

“Dr. Gottsman explained that best practice recommends putting off a joint replacement as long as possible – to make sure the implant lasts as late into life as possible – so that’s what I wanted to do,” Tony says. “But once I began having trouble with simple, everyday tasks, like getting in and out of the car, I knew it was time to take the next step.”

As an experienced healthcare executive, Tony understands the importance of research and planning.

“I spent a good bit of time researching hip replacement options and landed on a webpage talking about anterior approach hip replacement,” Tony says. “I was drawn to a video of Dr. Gottsman explaining this less invasive surgical option. I loved hearing from my own doctor what to expect. I knew right away that I wanted this approach – and that I wanted Dr. Gottsman to do it.”

“Anterior approach hip replacement surgery can have several advantages over posterior or standard approach hip replacement,” explains Dr. Gottsman. “With the anterior approach, the incision is made in the front of the hip rather than to the side or back. That means we can reach the hip joint by going between muscles, instead of through them. This helps us place the new joint more precisely in its location, and, with less muscle trauma than the traditional surgery.”

In addition to the research and videos, Tony says it was the personal touch – from the pre-surgical education to the communication with Dr. Gottsman and the Joint Care Center staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) – that made him feel most comfortable.

“Dr. Gottsman took the time to explain everything to me and spent as much time answering questions as I needed,” Tony says. “I never felt rushed or like I was ‘just another number.’ I knew what to expect during each step of the process and felt armed with all the tools I needed for a successful surgery and recovery.”

So, in February 2018, Dr. Gottsman performed Tony’s anterior approach hip replacement at NGMC Gainesville’s Joint Care Center – a dedicated unit at NGMC that provides orthopedic patients with personalized care, dedicated staff and proven treatment plans for total hip and knee replacement.

Now, just a few months post-surgery, Tony couldn’t be happier with both his surgical experience and the end result.

“I was up walking five hours after surgery and didn’t need a lot of pain medication,” Tony says. “My family had to remind me several times to not do too much, too soon, because, quite frankly, I felt pretty good.

“From my initial appointment with Dr. Gottsman all the way through surgery and recovery, my entire experience was just phenomenal,” Tony adds. “It’s not just about what happens the day of surgery that’s important, but the complete care package that really makes a difference. The preparation, follow-up and the genuine concern for my well-being – it’s the personal touch that Dr. Gottsman and the Joint Care Center staff offer that, I think, many other places lack.”

Dr. Gottsman says the long-term expectation of anterior hip replacement surgery is for patients to return to their usual activities – from walking to some high-impact sports – without the nagging pain they started with. For Tony, that means a little bit of everything: golfing, traveling and just being active in general.

“In fact, I was in the middle of doing yard work the other day and had an instant revelation,” Tony says. “There’s no way I would’ve been able to do that type of work six months ago, due to all the pain.”

“The main goal is to get our patients back to living their normal lifestyle,” Dr. Gottsman says. “When we’re able to achieve that in such a way that they, like Tony did, forget they’ve even had a hip replacement – that’s the true mark of success.”

Tony agrees, and says NGMC’s Joint Care Center offers people north of Atlanta the expert orthopedic care they need, close to home. “Over the past several years, I’ve heard people talk about traveling outside of Hall County for anterior approach hip replacement surgery, but I am living proof that a drive like that isn’t necessary,” Tony says.

“The Joint Care Center offers everything we need, from experienced surgeons like Dr. Gottsman to a specially trained care team that focuses on treatment plans personalized to your specific needs. Every step of the process has been thought out and accounted for, from preparation through rehabilitation. There is no reason to go anywhere else, especially with this level of expertise right here in our back yard.”

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