Our Modern Lifestyles Are Driving the Need for More Hip Replacement Specialists
In biblical times, the average human expectancy was between 30 and 35 years and, even as recently as the mid- to late-1800s, it was no more than a decade or so longer. Generally, deaths were the result of trauma, disease, or malnutrition, with only a tiny number of people surviving long enough to display the typical symptoms of old age. Reduced infant mortality, the greater availability of affordable foodstuffs, and the numerous advances in medicine have combined to more than double this figure. In the process, however, it has also served to increase the pressure on the world’s hip replacement specialists.
Given that today’s 60-year-olds are now commonly thought of as middle-aged, the accumulated wear and tear on their joints over the course of an additional two to three decades often takes its toll on their joints, resulting in the condition known as osteoarthritis. Paradoxically, while better healthcare has increased longevity, the availability of cheap processed foods may have diminished the risk of starvation, but it also carries an increased risk of obesity when consumed in excess, especially in combination with the more sedentary 21st-century lifestyle.
Such overindulgence has, unfortunately, become a fairly widespread tendency. Added wear and tear on the joints due to being overweight is now believed by many hip replacement specialists to explain the earlier onset of osteoarthritis which is now being diagnosed increasingly frequently among patients still in their fifties and, in some cases, even younger.
In addition to being subject to accidental injuries, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles can all be affected by diseases that cause pain and swelling and which, if left untreated, could lead to a gradual decline in the mobility of the affected joint. Since it is the lower limbs that must support the whole body whilst standing, walking, or running, the demand for orthopaedic specialists to perform knee and hip replacements tends to be correspondingly greater than that for other prosthetic joints.
In a healthy joint, the articulating surfaces have a protective layer of cartilage. The resulting smooth surfaces ensure friction-free movement between the various bones involved. In osteoarthritis, however, these protective surfaces become eroded, exposing the bone beneath. No longer frictionless, movement in an affected joint now results in bone-on-bone movement that can cause chipping and splintering, leading to swelling and pain. Although initially, prescription analgesics and, later, steroid injections help to control these symptoms, as the condition progresses, inevitably, surgery on the affected knee, shoulder, or hip by a specialist in joint replacements will be the only viable option.
Depending upon the extent of damage to the affected joint, it may be possible to replace just one of the articulating surfaces, although some orthopaedic surgeons take the view that, although this will slow the wear and tear process, the other surface will eventually need attention. The procedure is known as arthroplasty and whether it is to be total or partial will often rest on the findings of a minimally-invasive, investigative procedure known as arthroscopy.
Arthroscopy involves the insertion of a narrow, illuminated tube into the joint, enabling a video camera to capture images via a fibre optic cable and display them on a monitor screen. The images provide hip replacement specialists with a magnified view of the joint and surrounding tissues. Armed with the findings, the surgeon can then decide on the appropriate action. In some cases, it may even be possible to proceed directly with a remedial intervention. All that will be required are one or two additional keyhole incisions through which to insert the necessary instruments. Arthroscopic surgery reduces trauma, bleeding, the risk of infection, and post-operative recovery times.
Thanks to advances in surgical techniques and the development of new materials for the manufacture of prosthetics, the procedures performed by experienced hip replacement specialists are now widely regarded as the most successful of all orthopaedic interventions ever devised.