New hip surgery results in fast recovery

September 2, 2008 7:38:01 PM PDT
For active baby boomers, worn out joints are becoming a fact of life. But when it comes to hip replacements, many doctors have advised younger patients to wait, out of concerns they'll outlive the joint. But now, an alternative to hip replacement has FDA approval. It's called hip resurfacing.

You'll have to excuse Bruce Albohm for not getting up the morning we met him. He was being prepped at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco for hip surgery, but it's not exactly a replacement.

Dr. Christopher Cox will perform a hip resurfacing. Unlike a traditional hip replacement surgeons won't cut off the ball and socket portion of the hip.

"It's more like a crown, so the bone is trimmed and shaped and simply capped rather than cut off," said Dr. Cox.

The process requires precise measurements for a tight fit. During the 90 minute surgery, Dr. Cox will separate the hip joint and then use specialized tools to reshape it, starting with the socket side.

After installing the socket part of the joint, Dr. Cox begins trimming the ball portion to precisely match the new cap -- and drilling a slot for its anchoring rod. The paste will help hold it all in. The process is delicate, the final fitting, a bit less so.

But once in place, the joint will perform just as well as a full hip replacement. But the ultimate benefit is its replaceability. Since the patient is in his early 50's and is athletic, he might have been considered too young for the traditional surgery.

"We've shed away from doing young people because they do wear out and when they wear out its more difficult operation the second time. But in this case, don't take as much bone. If they do outlive implant, when it fails there's lot of bone left so it's a relatively simple second operation," said Dr. Cox.

And in the meantime, we caught up with Albohm at his gym in Marin County just two weeks after the surgery. He was about 30 minutes into his workout.

"I feel great. I do a lot of spinning, eventually work into hiking. I used to do a lot of mt.biking, probably won't do that for a while," said Albohm

"From a functional standpoint the hips feels normal. Feels like you're 18 again, you can run, and you can jump. Really no limit to what you can do," said Dr. Cox.

A new option for those ailing hips.

The hardware you saw earlier is sometimes called the Birmingham hip, after the city in England where it was developed. It's a bit more expensive that a traditional hip replacement, and is generally recommended only for younger patients who may need a second down the road.


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