Hip replacement is a highly successful operation,
relieving pain and restoring function for hundreds of thousands of
patients worldwide every year. Success is judged by pain relief, how
well the new joint works and its longevity; patients expect to get back
to normal activities including sports; surgeons hope the hip will last
forever! We need to be able to reliably fix the components to the bone,
with a low wear bearing. Although we have been doing hip replacements
since the early 1960’s, we still don’t really know what works best. All
hip and knee replacements are now entered into a National Joint Registry
(NJR) and this is finally beginning to point towards some answers.
For a long time it was thought that hip
replacements failed because the bone cement used to fix the parts to the
bone was crumbling and many new types of hip were introduced in an
attempt to overcome this. We now know the real problem is wear debris
from the moving part, which damages the bone around the artificial hip.
Great efforts have gone into improving the bearing surfaces, including
the introduction of improved polyethylene and harder bearings including
metal on metal, which became popular with the hip resurfacing. Metal on
metal bearings have a lower wear rate, but the NJR is showing that some
designs have a higher early failure rate than other joints and one metal
on metal bearing has even been withdrawn from the market.
The NJR is showing a trend towards cemented hip
replacements having a lower early failure rate than hips put in without
cement and hip resurfacing procedures. The literature shows that the
use of bone cement produces reliable fixation of the new hip to the
bone. For the hip to function well and be stable we need to restore the
correct anatomy, allowing the muscles to work normally and get the leg
the right length. Cement gives the surgeon more control over the
position of the new hip components in the bone.
We recommend the cemented Exeter hip system which
includes an extensive range of sizes, which helps get the mechanics
right and has been demonstrated to produce outstanding results over more
than 30 years, with numerous satisfied patients. Modern bearing
technology will only extend the longevity of this type of hip.
is Total Hip Replacement?
The hip joint consists of two bones. The socket or acetabulum is part of the pelvic bone and the ball is formed by the head of the femur bone. Both will be replaced in total hip replacement. The bones may be removed and replaced in conventional total hip replacement or retained and resurfaced – there are arguments and indications for both. Implants for the socket and the femur may be implanted either with or without cement and hip replacements will frequently consist of a combination of both cemented and cementless components – the hybrid hip. As well as a variety of implants, total hip replacements can be implanted in a variety of different ways. There are a number of different surgical approaches to the hip involving incisions of different length and even more than 1 incision.
With so much variety, it is very clear that your surgeon has to be relied upon to choose appropriate implants and to implant them to the highest standard. Surgical experience and skill is of paramount importance to the success both in the short and long term following total hip replacement. You should be able to discuss with your surgeon his or her choice of implant and how it is to be implanted should you so wish. The pro’s and cons of the various implants and techniques will now be discussed.
Total Hip Replacement
joint consists of a socket (acetabulum), which is part
of the pelvic bone and a ball, which is formed by the
head of the femur bone. The bones are lined by smooth,
lubricated cartilage. As the cartilage wears away
arthritis develops and this causes pain.
of the joint are replaced in total hip replacement. The
head of the femur is removed, the socket is prepared and
a new socket implanted. The femur is the prepared and a
stem placed down the canal of the thighbone, with a new
ball placed on top. Which articulates with the new
There are a
number of different approaches to the hip. There has
been a vogue for smaller incisions, but we think that
this increases the risk of complications, such as
fracture of the bone, or unequal leg length. The most
important thing is that the surgeon gets a good exposure
of the hip and is able to repair the muscles and tendons
back onto the bone at the end of the operation, to
ensure that the hip works properly. We make an incision
at the back of the hip in the buttock about 15cm long,
which would normally be covered by underwear or a modest
components are either fixed to the bone with cement, or
the surface of the implant is treated to encourage bone
to grow onto it. Both techniques are usually successful
in fixing the hip to the bone. Sometimes one part,
usually the socket, is put in without cement and the
other component cemented. This is known as a
As well as
fixing the new hip to the bone it is also important to
reproduce the normal anatomy and mechanics of the joint,
to make sure the leg is the right length and the joint
functions well, to allow the patient to return to full
activities. The surgeon needs to implant the hip very
accurately to achieve this.
part (the bearing) is extremely important, as it is the
wear rate, which is most likely to determine the
long-term performance and survival of the hip.
Traditionally metal against polyethylene bearings have
been used. The wear rate can be reduced by using hard
bearings, such as metal on metal or ceramic on ceramic,
but these bearing surfaces may cause other problems.
Great improvements have been made in polyethylene and
very low wear polyethylenes are now available.
With so much
variety, it is very clear that your surgeon has to be
relied upon to choose appropriate implants and to
implant them to the highest standard. Surgical
experience and skill is of paramount importance to the
success both in the short and long term following total
hip replacement. You should be able to discuss with your
surgeon his or her choice of implant and how it is to be
implanted should you so wish. The advantages and
disadvantages of the various implants and techniques
will now be discussed.
Cementless Total Hip Replacement
This is the “gold standard” hip replacement, originally
developed by Sir John Charnley in Wrightington in the
early 1960’s, against which all other hip replacements
are judged. The Charnley, Exeter and Stanmore hip
systems have the longest and most established track
records and with these implants we can expect a
successful, reliable and durable hip replacement up to
and even beyond 30 years. For the vast majority of
patients requiring hip replacement cemented hip
replacements are ideal and there should always be good
reasons for choosing something else in their place.
Implantation of cemented components is reproducible,
relatively safe and associated with relatively few
complications. The use of cement gives the surgeon very
fine control over the position into which the implant is
placed. Cemented components are compatible with all of
the modern day bearing surfaces and as long as they are
inserted with a high level of skill they will work very
well for a very long time.
What is the bearing surface?