Hipsters Of Madison Dig Belgian Surgery

More Than 30 People From Around Here Have Had An Alternative Kind Of Hip Replacement, And Recipients Talk Glowingly About It.

Well, it's official.
Madison's baby-boomers -- members of the very same generation that once relished being called "hippies" -- have grown up and grown old.

No more proof was necessary than on Thursday night at a gathering of baby-boomer-aged friends on the sunlit lawn of a Lake Monona home. This was a gathering of a group of people who call themselves "surface hippies."

But no fond remembrances of protests or long hair or Woodstock here. Alas, the talk was of ibuprofen and of surgery, for these "hippies" were gathered to share information not about the counterculture but about hips. Real hips. You know, the kind that we use when we walk.

Madison, it turns out, has become a center of support for an alternative kind of hip surgery.

And it's happened, apparently, just in time. Lots of baby-boomer hips are wearing out from tennis and soccer and mountain biking and downhill skiing and countless other spare-time activities.

More than 30 people from the Madison area have had the alternative hip surgery, called "resurfacing," thus the name "surface hippies." Many of them have traveled to Belgium for the process because the Food and Drug Administration has not approved its use in the United States and insurance companies still consider it experimental, according to John Rogerson, a Madison orthopedic surgeon who was at Thursday night's gathering.

Rogerson, who has recommended the procedure for some of his patients, said the FDA is considering approval of the surgery for the United States. A decision could come by December, he said.

"This really is a hotbed," Rogerson said of Madison and the procedure. "When people come back from their surgeries, they're evangelical." Rogerson speculates that so many people from Madison have had the surgery because of the city's fondness for the Internet, where much information about the procedure can be found. Also, he added, many people -- such as Saeed Nowrasteh, who is a top amateur tennis player and plays on a resurfaced hip -- have shared their stories.

"I think it's because of the ability of people to get information off the Web," said Rogerson. "And we're a more mobile society now."

Thursday night was a reunion of sorts for many of those who have had the surgery. And, in addition to enjoying wine and appetizers at the home of resurfacing patient Lynn Beyler, several people who are considering the surgery were able to learn something and listen to stories.

In the procedure, an arthritic hip is repaired by capping the top of the femur with a steel ball that fits into an artificial steel socket. In the traditional total hip replacement, the top of the femur is removed and the femur is fitted with a long prosthesis with a ball on top. According to proponents, the resurfacing approach is better because the ball is larger and able to withstand more pounding. So the hips lasts longer -- as long as 40 years, some speculate.

Also, according to Rogerson, a second surgery becomes much easier because the femur remains intact.

It was apparent Thursday night that the surgery has worked remarkably well for many. Steve Cohan is skiing and mountain biking again. So is Todd Nelson. "I'm doing everything and more than I was before," said Nelson.

It all lends a whole new meaning, hostess Beyler said, to being "hip."

\ For more info

For more information on hip resurfacing as an alternative to total hip replacement, check out the Yahoo discussion group called "Surfacehippy" at health.groups.yahoo.com/group/surfacehippy

\ Contact Ron Seely at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 252-6131.