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A brief history of hip replacements

For centuries (and more than likely since the dawn of humanity), men and women have dealt with the aches that accompany arthritis and aging, including hip pain and joint failure. While support devices like canes, walkers, and wheelchairs have always been helpful in relieving the strain, they work to tackle the symptoms instead of the situation itself. Thankfully, as time has advanced, so have long-lasting treatments for hip pain. Hip replacements are now common practice, and over the years, doctors and researchers have made some incredible strides in both technique and materials. Today, we proudly continue this mission in our academic facility and look back to the procedure’s earliest pioneers. What follows is a brief history of hip replacements.

As chronicled by Dr. Ananya Mandal, in 1891, German surgeon Themistocles Gluck successfully attempted to use ivory to replace a femoral head. The use of this material in replacement procedures continued for many years.  In hindsight the selection of the material was brilliant. Historical records and medical journals show that really mastered the procedure with ivory between 1960 and 1980, as he performed over 300 hip replacements with a great response.  Professor Gluck and a later Burmese surgeon named San Baw self-reported that the vast majority of the patients were returning to their normal physical activities — including walking and playing sports — within a few weeks of the surgery. The absence of efficient antibiotics significantly hampered the routine use of this surgery.

The first recorded metallic hip replacement occurred in 1940 at Columbia Hospital in South Carolina. There, surgeon Austin Moore implanted a large vitallium prosthetic attached to the end of the femoral shaft with bolts. The technique quickly gained popularity in surgical circles, becoming a standard of care and leading Moore to develop an improved version of the surgery that is, to some degree, still used today.  The above accounts referred to what is now known as hemiarthroplasty or a half hip replacement, whereby the femoral head only is replaced leaving the hip socket unaffected.  The unchallenged father of modern hip replacement is Sir John Charnley of Wrightington, UK.  His classic textbook on low friction arthroplasty recounts his systematic and disciplined efforts at achieving a smooth motion between 2 artificial surfaces, namely a hard metallic ball and a pelvic socket lined with a plastic type liner.

The ability to restore function and greatly diminish pain allows patient’s a fresh start at life.  This provides tremendous satisfaction to the surgeon.  It is incredibly rewarding to see the change that hip replacements bring to individual lives and how patients are better able to function day to day. I also take great pride in the work that takes place behind the scenes through research.

In recent years, minimally invasive hip replacements have truly changed the procedure as a whole. Patients can now be in and out of a surgery center in a single day with reduced recovery time, easier healing, less scarring, and the same incredible results that would be seen with a more traditional, open approach. Thanks to robotics, our muscle cuts and dissection routes are smaller than ever and our maneuvering is more precise. We even use sensor technology to ensure the most efficient movements. By incorporating these new technologies and investing in research, improvements can be clearly demonstrated. I feel confident that hip replacements will only improve in the future.

If you are in need of a hip replacement, our office specializes in the latest and technologically validated advancements. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions.

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