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Hip Surgery May Offer New Life
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- If you can stand the pain before seeing a surgeon, you don't need a hip replacement.
Although vast improvements have been made in joint replacements in the last 20 years, nothing a doctor does will last as long or as well as the original joint.
Dr. Rusty Linton, orthopaedic surgeon in Columbus, said if performed on a person meeting the ideal criteria, replacing a hip can be like getting a new life.
"First surgeries have a 95 to 97 percent success rate that notable improvement will occur," Linton said. "Unfortunately, those replacements will not last as long as the original -- maybe 20 years at best. The success rate of second surgeries, or revisions, is around 80 percent."
Dr. Thomas Turner of Berwin Veterinary Associates near Chicago, said animal research such as that taking place at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, is giving crippled people and animals a shot at better artificial hips.
Turner, an internationally-known expert on joint replacements in humans and animals, said the complications doctors see with animal hip replacements are similar to those suffered by humans.
"Animals put a lot more wear and tear on hips than people do," Turner said.
Linton said when natural hips are bruised, they heal. When the material is manmade, it cannot heal itself.
"When we perform a first surgery -- which is elective -- we burn bridges. There will be no going back. If that person is going to have a hip joint, it will be an artificial one," Linton said. "It is so important to get it right the first time. You don't want to go back into that hip."
Linton also stressed the importance of patients meeting ideal criteria before attempting a replacement.
Negatives include being too young and being overweight.
"Since the hips won't last long and second surgeries are undesirable, it is best that people seek alternatives to the surgery first," he said. "Alternatives include losing weight, reducing stressful activities and using a cane."
Linton said he encourages patients to wait as long as possible before having the surgery.
"This is a procedure for crippled people, not just people in pain," Linton said. "It's for people who can't get up and go to the bathroom without help; then after the surgery, many can walk around without pain."
Ray Watson, a biology professor at MSU, knows what it means to live with hip pain and to feel relief after the surgery. He began to experience pain when he was in his 40s.
"I could barely walk, barely sleep. The pain was starting to interfere with my work. Even with a cane, I could barely handle outdoor class labs," Watson said.
Watson's first hip was replaced in 1981 and the second in 1992. Now, the time is approaching when the first will need to be revised.
"If people experience the pain like I have, they will recognize the value of hip research," he said.