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Surgeons trial new alternative to total hip replacement

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A newly developed ceramic hip resurfacing implant could lead to better outcomes for younger, more active people who require hip surgery.

So far, 15 patients with degenerative hip joint diseases, such as osteoarthritis, have been treated with the H1 hip resurfacing implant in a trial led by Imperial College London. Early results suggest that patients can return to physical activities such as swimming and cycling within six weeks of their operation.

According to the researchers, it’s the first time that patients’ hips have been resurfaced without using metal implants.

Hip resurfacing involves the surgeon removing only the diseased cartilage of the hip joint and resurfacing the joint — until now with a metal-on-metal implant. This approach is less invasive than total hip replacement and leaves the patient with greater mobility after surgery. However, in some patients, metal particles are released by the implant, causing tissue reactions such as swelling and soreness. This can lead to resurfacing implants failing and patients requiring further surgery.

What’s more, conventional hip resurfacing techniques are unsuitable for female patients because the metal implant doesn’t fit their hips bones properly, leading to higher failure rates. As a result, women can’t have this surgery and their only option is a total hip replacement, whatever their age.

A total of 250 patients are planned to be recruited for the clinical investigation from hospitals across the UK and the rest of Europe. These patients will be followed-up over 10 years to assess how the implant is performing.

The researchers hope the trial will demonstrate that surgical replacement of the hip can be postponed or avoided for younger and more active patients, enabling them to lead more active lives.