Perhaps the most exciting aspect of modern hip replacement is the increasing use of robotic surgery.
If I’ve learned anything during nearly six decades of reporting on medical science, it’s that the longer you wait, the better the methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment are likely to become. That’s true for almost every field of medicine — cardiology, gastroenterology, oncology, etc. And it may be particularly relevant for orthopedic surgery, a specialty facing ever-increasing demands from an aging population with bones, joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles that break down after decades of wear and tear.
Although repairing these body parts is rarely urgent, many people endure painful joints for years, even decades, often out of fear of surgery. The delay can have both obvious risks of ongoing pain and increasing disability, as well as unexpected consequences like injury to previously healthy muscles and joints that are overstressed as a result.
I have good news for people with degenerated hip joints that are in serious need of replacement. The last decade has seen significant incremental improvements in surgical techniques and the ability to fit patients with artificial hips that are highly resistant to mechanical failure or a need for revision.
A close friend recently underwent replacement of a second hip, nine years after the first, and is thrilled with how minimal the pain was and how rapidly she’s recovered function this time thanks to the updated techniques her surgeon used.
The essential fact of hip replacement has not changed. Traditionally, the damaged ball-and-socket joint is removed surgically and replaced by one made artificially. But the way this is done, especially the preparation involved, can make a major difference in the immediate and long-term success of hip replacement surgery.
Image Credit: Gracia Lam