Hip Resurfacing Gaining in Popularity

Artificial hips are designed to last about 20 years at best. Yet, increasingly, they are being implanted in patients who will outlive the lifespan of their articificial hips. To make them last longer, there is a technique called resurfacing, which offers interim relief and allows doctors to delay the removal of the first artificial hip and the implantation of a new one. The first FDA-approved system, by Smith & Nephew, became available last May, and others are on the horizon.

April 16, 2007

1 Min Read
Hip Resurfacing Gaining in Popularity

The New York Times did a write-up on the procedure over the weekend.Back in 2004 when this was an experimental procedure in this country, my (Erik Swain's) grandfather was considered for it. His artificial hip was 17 years old and dated from a time when they weren't expected to last more than 10 years. It caused an infection that kept him in the hospital for 38 days. More of this would occur if something wasn't done. His doctor thought it was too risky to implant a new hip into an 85-year-old man with a heart condition. So they considered doing a resurfacing. Ultimately they decided against it, and my grandfather found another doctor who would give him a new hip. He survived the operation and his quality of life today is much better than it was three years ago.Why did they decide against resurfacing? Because, as the Times article points out, it is no easier on the doctor or patient than implanting a new hip -- so the surgery would have been about as risky to my grandfather as the procedure to get a new hip was. Cost and recovery time are about the same. Yet it's a more temporary solution than a new hip. So what exactly is the benefit of doing this instead of implanting a new hip? Aside from delaying the "start of the clock" on the lifespan of the new hip, I don't see any other advantages over a re-replacement. Maybe future generations of the procedure will offer a more clear-cut difference.

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