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Press Releases

New Implant Used in Hip Replacement Benefits Younger Patients with Arthritis

(New York, NY. October 1, 2003). Up until a few months ago, Jeffrey James was wondering how he could keep working as a flight attendant. Severe arthritis in his hip was causing terrible pain and a noticeable limp. Going up and down stairs was impossible, even getting out of a car was a challenge, let alone meeting the demands of his job. He was taking heavy-duty painkillers. "I didn't know how much longer I could keep working," he said. "I had trouble walking my dog. The pain was so bad, it woke me up at night."

James had been to three orthopedic surgeons who all told him that at age 42, he was too young for hip replacement surgery, the treatment of last resort for patients with advanced arthritis. Since standard hip replacements usually last 10 to 15 years, many doctors are reluctant to operate on younger, more active patients, because the joint replacement wears out more quickly and they are bound to need another operation. A second hip replacement surgery becomes more difficult and may wear out more quickly. The last doctor James saw in the Pittsburgh area, where he lives, handed him a cane and recommended he go on disability.

But James remembered a conversation he'd had with a passenger on one of his flights. The woman recommended he try a doctor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. That's where James found Dr. Geoffrey Westrich, who is using a new type of hip replacement that many doctors believe will last longer.

The new joint replacement, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in February, uses ceramic materials, instead of the usual metal and plastic. In hip replacement surgery, doctors replace the painful, arthritic joint with a fully functioning hip implant.

"Total hip replacement was one of the most important advances in orthopedic surgery, giving many people a new lease on life," says Dr. Westrich, who has an office at the Hospital for Special Surgery and in Fresh Meadows, Queens. "Over the past few years, new techniques and materials have revolutionized the procedure. The new ceramic hip implant is the latest design advance that we believe will last longer. It will allow younger patients to become pain-free and resume activities they've been forced to give up."

How Hip Replacement Works

The hip joint is called a ball-and-socket joint. The spherical head of the femur (thighbone) moves inside the cup-shaped hollow socket of the pelvis. To duplicate this action, a total hip replacement implant has three parts: the stem, which fits into the femur and provides stability; the ball, which replaces the spherical head of the femur; and the cup, which replaces the worn-out hip socket. Each part comes in different sizes to accommodate various body sizes and types. The standard hip implant consists of a metal ball that fits into a plastic socket. The new hip implant consists of a ceramic ball that fits into a ceramic -lined socket.

"Clinical trials of the ceramic joint replacement indicated less wear on this type of implant, so, theoretically, it could last 20 years or longer," Dr. Westrich said. Welcome news to Jeffrey James, who, six weeks out of surgery, is pain-free and feeling great. "When you've been in pain and restricted in your activities for so long, you really appreciate the simple pleasures of life, like walking the dog," he said. James is in physical therapy and looks forward to resuming the exercise routine his arthritis had forced him to abandon. He expects to go back to work next month.

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