Surgery Attractive Alternative for Athletes, Now Available at UCSD Medical Center
The anthem of “work hard, play hard” is impossible to sustain when your joints just don’t work. Increasingly, highly active men and women are finding a need for hip surgery at an earlier age.
“It’s hard to say why my hips gave out,” said David Nassi, 55, a real estate agent in Solana Beach. “I was an avid marathoner, often running 70 miles per week. But even after I stopped running, the pain gradually got worse and worse. I couldn’t even lift my foot.”
Nassi fits a growing demographic of patients needing surgery to replace worn out hip joints. Fortunately, hip resurfacing is an alternative to total hip replacement.
“Historically, patients under the age of 60 have a higher early failure rate with total hip replacement. These patients are often very active and put lots of hard miles on the hip,” said Scott Ball, M.D., orthopedic surgeon at UCSD Medical Center.
During total hip replacement, the head and neck of the femur, or thigh bone, are entirely removed and a stem is placed into the shaft of the femur with a new ball on top of the stem. In comparison, with resurfacing, the head and hip socket are just reshaped and resurfaced with implants. The technology was approved by the FDA in May 2006. The system replaces worn ball-and-socket surfaces in the joint with smooth, durable high carbide cobalt chrome surfaces.
One of the biggest advantages of hip resurfacing is that the bone is preserved and continues to bear weight which helps to maintain bone strength. Saving this bone is important in young people because they may need surgery in the future.
“Many patients self-select for the procedure because they want to continue jogging, skiing, and surfing activities which have traditionally been forbidden with total hip replacements. Despite the fact that these patients are returning to high level activities, the device appears to be withstanding the increased stresses,” said Ball.
Early studies from implant manufacturers estimate the average success rate for resurfacing over the first 5 to 10 years is around 95% to 98%. In other words, only about 2% to 5% of patients need a total hip replacement in the first 5 to 10 years after resurfacing. If the device fails, patients can still be treated with a total hip replacement and expect an excellent outcome.
“It’s phenomenal. Since my surgery I have been able to return to cycling and swimming,” said Nassi. “This is the first time in 7 years I have been pain free. I can even do all the things that I used to take for granted like crossing my legs to put my socks on. Give me five months, I’ll be running again.”
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, more than 400,000 total or partial hip replacements are performed every year. This number is expected to increase as the population ages and life spans increase.
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