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Hip replacement
Bone and Joint Health

Hip Replacement Technology: The Newest Techniques and Advances

Hip replacement technology is always improving and some of the newest changes can truly make your life easier. It's never simple to get a hip replacement, but doctors and scientists are hard at work, looking for ways to improve the surgery and recovery process. If you haven't looked into the latest news on hip replacements in a while, then you might be surprised to see what's out there.

What Is Hip Replacement Surgery?

A total hip replacement involves replacing the head of the femur and the worn-out socket. It's one of the most common surgeries in the United States, with more than 340,000 people getting a new hip every year. Hip replacements are typically given to people who are having issues with mobility due to arthritis, fractures, or age-related conditions. They're meant to cut down on pain and increase a patient's range of motion. The hospital stay and recovery for traditional replacements can be lengthy, with patients being in the hospital for one to three days and taking up to six months to fully recover. Newer techniques are cutting down on both of these.

In and Out of the Hospital on the Same Day

A newer, same-day hip replacement allows some people to go into the hospital in the morning and be home by early that evening. This surgery is far less invasive than traditional hip replacements. Instead of using larger incisions, surgeons make a small three-inch incision without cutting muscles and tendons. It's called the Watson-Jones anterior approach, where the hip is removed in smaller pieces and the new hip is inserted in pieces. This allows patients to recover faster, and it costs about the same as a traditional surgery. It's not available everywhere yet because doctors need special training to do this less-invasive surgery.

Additional Techniques Reduce Hospital Stays

The same-day approach isn't the only new technique in hip replacement. At NYU Langone Medical Center, for example, people participate in a "prehab" before surgery, where they learn the right exercises to do after the surgery and the proper way to move while recovering. At this same hospital, some doctors use a short-acting anesthetic and other medications that help reduce inflammation and pain, allowing for a faster recovery.

In other places, some doctors are now using an optimized positioning system before surgery, where they get X-rays of not just the hips but also the spine, and then create a 3D model. This shows them exactly how to place the hip for optimum mobility. Still, other surgeons are using a surgeon-controlled robotic arm and computer-guided navigation to better position the hip replacement components. This technique allows for less pain and greater mobility after the surgery.

The Research Continues

Doctors are also thinking outside of the box and working on completely new alternatives to total hip replacement. One of these is a biological technique that implants donor tissue into the femur to help fill in the damaged area.

But there are new biological approaches that go beyond even this. For example, some doctors are now looking into using a patient's own stem cells to grow new cartilage. This approach is still in the experimental stage, but looking hopeful. Some call this a living artificial hip. Over time, research like this might change hip replacements completely.

If you're looking into hip replacement technology, do your research and talk to your doctor about what new techniques are available that could minimize your hospital stay and recovery. Of course, not every patient can go home the same day, and a quicker discharge depends on the patient's health and risk factors before the surgery. But it's always good to know your options and which hospitals and surgeons are trained in which treatments, whether it's a minimally invasive surgery or a robot-guided procedure. Treatments are advancing every year, and the options are only improving for people needing hip replacements.

Posted in Bone and Joint Health

Author and publicist, featured by Business Week, Livestrong, The Nest, and many other publications. Her interests include Science, technology, business, pets, women's lifestyle and Christian living.

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*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.