‘THE operation of the century’. That is how one eminent professor of medicine described total hip replacement.
Indeed, second only to giving up smoking, it offers the best improvement in health quality of any medical intervention.
Most people over 65 will know someone who has had a hip replacement and, for the huge majority, it is a truly life-changing event.
In the UK about 80,000 hip replacements are performed every year, the majority for osteoarthritis (wear and tear).
Other reasons why replacement may be required are a fracture, a tumour or inflammatory arthritis and also to treat the consequences of childhood hip disease.
Most hip replacements involve replacing both the ball and the socket of the joint, as both are affected by disease. In certain cases where the socket is still healthy, a half hip replacement (hemiarthroplasty) that replaces just the ball may be suitable.
The design of the modern hip replacement hasn’t changed much in 50 years and the heritage of the operation is firmly based in two centres in the UK: Wrightington, where John Charnley pioneered his eponymous hip replacement, and Exeter, where Orthopaedic Surgeon Robin Ling and engineer Clive Lee developed another system.
Originally called the Ling-Lee hip, due to possible Chinese connotations, the manufacturers changed the name to the Exeter Hip Replacement in the late 1970s.
While the Charnley design is no longer in use, the Exeter is now the most widely used – and arguably the most successful – hip replacement in the world.
The surgeon team at the Exeter Hip Unit have evolved the design and teach surgeons from all over the world their techniques of surgery.
The main benefit is that it is inserted into bone cement (polymer) which has been pressurised into the bone. This allows the anatomy and leg length of the patient to be recreated almost perfectly.
In addition, the way in which the replacement loads the bone means the health of the bone is preserved so that even if revision (re-do) hip replacement is required, this becomes a much easier and safer option.
The surgeons work at the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Centre in Exeter and the Exeter Nuffield Hospital.
If you have any questions, please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are daily flights to Exeter from Malaga and Alicante airports for much of the year.
For many expats, the safety and comfort of having such important surgery undertaken in Exeter is well worth the round trip.