Dr. Sands and Dr. Perry have a special skill in common



Dr. Kenneth Sands and Dr. John Perry give patients back their mobility through orthopedic surgery.

Photo by Keith Betterley

Imagine being told you may not cross your legs for at least the next six weeks, and that bending over to tie your shoes is also a bad idea.

Patients of most total hip replacements get instructions like these. Only one hip replacement procedure comes with no restrictions, and it’s called direct anterior hip replacement.

“The approach was performed in Europe for eons,” said Dr. Kenneth Sands, a Health First orthopedic specialist in Viera and one of two surgeons in Brevard County who perform the technique. “It really became popular in the United States probably during the 1990s.”

The direct anterior approach allows surgeons to enter between the muscles and use x-ray guidance to improve implant placement.

Traditional approaches to total hip replacement include posterior (through the back of the hip) and lateral (through the side), as well as anterolateral, which involve cutting muscle and which have various risks for pain, limping, and dislocating the hip. Post-surgery restrictions help decrease the risk of problems, especially dislocation.

“They have to re-teach themselves how to sit, they cannot cross their legs in the future, and they should be very very cautious about bending over,” said Dr. John Perry, also a Health First orthopedic surgeon and the only other physician in the county who performs the direct anterior procedure. 

According to Sands, doctor’s orders vary from surgeon to surgeon — 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or the rest of a patient’s life.

Because the direct anterior approach does not involve cutting through muscle, the recovery time is faster and the usual restrictions are not necessary.

“My patients can bend over, ties their shoes, they can cross their legs — so they really can participate in more of the regular activities of daily life,” Sands said.

Despite all its benefits, the direct anterior approach is still not predominant because of the learning curve, according to Sands. Ultimately, the skill of the surgeon matters more for patients than the specific technique.

“When you’re picking a doctor, you want him to do the procedure that he does best,” Sands said.

Still, Perry and Sands agree the demand for the procedure is rising.

“The patients do well and get better quickly,” Perry said. “It will last a long time, and they shouldn’t have a limp, and it should have less chance of dislocating because I’m putting everything in the right position, the way their body was made.”

Sands performed his first direct anterior hip replacement when he was in the U.S. Army, and chose it as his primary approach after moving to Florida. Originally, he intended to be a pediatrician, but during his sojourn at medical school his interests changed.

“Orthopedics was mainly because it’s a helpful practice. Most people come to you injured, and usually within a short period of time you make them better. So for the most part it’s a very happy profession,” Sands said.

He particularly loves total joint surgery. “People are basically debilitated and then you do an operation, and you actually, for the most part, give them back their lives. So it’s very gratifying,”
he said.

Outside of work he spends time with his wife and his two children, ages 16 and 11. They try to go skiing every year as a family, and he also likes to go scuba-diving with his wife and play golf when
he can.

Like Sands, orthopedics was not Perry’s original plan. Growing up with a diabetic brother was the reason for his interest in medicine.

“You grow up in that environment of chronic illness and you get exposed to the medical field continuously. I originally thought I’d be a diabetologist or an endocrinologist and work on diabetes, but I liked orthopedics better,” Perry said.

His academic fondness for anatomy was part of that. “It’s also very fun to have a problem that you can fix that really helps someone, that makes them really feel good,” he said. “I enjoy seeing patients enjoy their life and get their freedom back.”

He began doing the anterior approach in 2006, when he was living in the skiing-centric Mammoth Mountain area in California and taking care of a very athletic crowd. He and his family moved to Brevard about four years ago, which is definitely different, but he’s happy.

“It’s a wonderful place to raise my kids. I love all the technology and the Space Coast, and it brings in so many wonderful professionals and lots of good schools. There are opportunities here in Brevard County my children and family never had in California,” he said. “I’m very blessed to have a community like Brevard where my kids and wife are so happy.”

For more information, call 855-347-7113. 

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