Facts About Hip Replacement Surgery

Jan 18, 2022 | Articles

Some Facts About Hip Replacement Surgery

With many people now living well into their eighties and nineties or even longer, the need for medical attention during their later years has been mounting. A sizeable percentage of the problems that tend to occur in individuals aged sixty and over are related to their joints and often affect their mobility. Two of our joints, in particular, are exposed to constant physical activity during decades of walking, running, bending, and similar activities. Therefore, it is fortunate that orthopaedic surgeons have developed techniques to perform hip replacement surgery and similar procedures for malfunctioning knee joints.

Using prosthetic components to replace damaged joints is known as arthroplasty. It has a history extending for over more than 130 years, beginning in 1891. After decades of failures, due mainly to the inferior materials used to create the prosthetic parts, in the early 1960s, a surgeon in Britain’s Manchester Royal Infirmary made a game-changing breakthrough. Sir John Charnley developed a low-friction system that marked a new era in femoroacetabular arthroplasty. His use of a metal femoral stem and a polyethylene acetabular component made him the “father” of modern hip replacement surgery.

Today, this procedure is widely regarded as the most successful orthopaedic intervention ever. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology, around 498,000 patients underwent this procedure during that year. The study also predicted that this figure would grow by almost 130%, reaching 850,000 by the end of the current decade. In the absence of a significant breakthrough that might limit the need for arthroplasty, that prediction appears reliable. Women account for around 60% of all hip and knee replacements due, it seems, to their increased susceptibility to arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory condition that frequently presents in multiple joints causing pain and swelling. By contrast, osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when the protective layer of cartilage lining the acetabulum, the femoral head, or both become eroded, leaving the exposed bone vulnerable to chipping. Bone and cartilage fragments trapped in the joint are responsible for the pain and swelling, which frequently affects just a single joint. Typically, when either of these conditions is no longer relieved by medication and mobility becomes compromised, an orthopaedic surgeon will recommend a hip replacement.

The operation has a better than 95% success rate. The prosthetic components can continue to function effectively for 30 years or more, so the need for revision surgery is correspondingly low. In South Africa, the skilled and experienced orthopaedic team at the Life Wilgers Hospital in Pretoria is recognised by referring physicians both at home and overseas as the nation’s leader in shoulder, knee, and hip replacement.