Rare hip disorder leads an Evansville nurse to IU Health expert

Like a barber with a lousy haircut or a landscaper whose yard is unkept, Heather Cox lived an ironic life for at least a year. As a nurse who helped over 250 patients handle pain at an Evansville pain management clinic, she was on her feet constantly in 2012 and 2013. Most of that time, she felt miserable, especially when she sat down to rest at the end of the day.  

When it got to the point that she was only sleeping two hours a night, she knew it was time to do something about her right hip. The cause of her pain was no surprise. Cox had been diagnosed as a young teen with hip dysplasia, a rare abnormality in the structure of the hip’s ball and/or socket. In 1990, she had surgery at Indiana University Health Riley Hospital for Children to correct the problem, which affected her right hip more than her left.

Last summer, she sought advice from an Evansville orthopedic surgeon who ordered x-rays of her hip. After reviewing the results, he was bewildered. “He asked me, ‘Now which hip is it that had the surgery?’” Cox says. Other than her scar, he saw no evidence of Cox’s first corrective procedure.

After 23 years, her body reabsorbed the shelf that had been surgically formed to serve as her right hip socket. That meant she was walking without the protective qualities of a hip socket. Cox needed a periacetabular osteotomy (PAO), a procedure that corrects hip dysplasia by repositioning the hip socket to its optimal spot.

Given the rareness of the condition, Cox’s surgeon had only seen one case in the previous 10 years. “We’re going to have to find someone who can do this surgery for you,” he said.

In our next post, learn what led Heather Cox to Indiana University Health and how she is doing after surgery to correct hip dysplasia.