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New technology makes hip replacements compatible with active lifestyles
In today’s world where “50 is the new 30” people are pursuing their recreational passions even later
And as generations age, that increased activity — coupled with the nation’s overweight population — leads to more and more people experiencing increased wear and tear on their joints and grappling with the fear of losing the activities they love. But thanks to advances in material and surgical technologies in recent years, hip replacement is now an option for patients of various ages, opening the door for continued recreation — from leisurely walks to cycling, tennis, even downhill skiing.
1. Simple design, advanced solutions
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. A protrusion at the top of the femur fits neatly inside the pelvic bone, where a wide range of smooth motion is provided by the surrounding cartilage, which acts as a lubricant for the joint.
As people age and tens of millions of rotations accumulate on the joint over a lifetime, problems can set in and have profound effects on an individual’s range of motion and comfort. This breakdown, which to some extent is a natural part of aging, can reach a point where a patient’s quality of life is severely impacted and a hip replacement procedure is identified as the best course of action.
2. A lifelong solution for any age
As recently as a decade ago, patients undergoing a hip replacement were told they would have to come back approximately 10 years after the surgery to have a new “liner” installed in the artificial joint — as the man-made materials would succumb to the same wear cycles that impacted the original joint. But today, advances in materials technology allow patients as young as 50 to reasonably expect the high-tech artificial “cartilage” polymer to last a lifetime. The advanced materials also permit the rigors of most athletic activities, allowing for a high quality of life so patients can pursue the things they love.For many people, having a hip replacement is not an end, but a beginning.
3. Using ‘Pre-Hab’ to minimize recovery time
With any surgical procedure, there’s plenty of focus on rehabilitation during the weeks and months after going home from the hospital. But to maximize the body’s ability to recover, patients should also engage in “pre-habilitation” to get ready for a hip replacement. Depending on the length of time before the procedure is scheduled, pre-hab can include everything from weight loss to conditioning of the upper extremities (for handling crutches afterward). Patients may even spend time learning to use a walker or crutches in a comfortable environment prior to surgery. In addition to preparing themselves physically, pre-operative education gives patients and their family members access to valuable information about what to expect and how to best accommodate the recovery period.
4. Walk in, walk out
When the big day finally arrives, patients can expect a procedure that is very difference from the original hip replacements of 50 years ago. Advanced — even robotic — surgical procedures allow for quick and precise installation of the artificial joint, making it easy to for patients to get back on their feet. After arriving at the hospital for a hip replacement, most patients leave within 48–72 hours, after having walked with assistance and navigated stairs. Just six weeks after the procedure, patients can expect to have 80 percent of their recovery behind them. Within six months they can be back to enjoying their hobbies and activities at 100 percent.
Though each insurance provider varies, insurers, including Medicare, cover most joint replacement procedures. Scheduling a consultation with a joint replacement specialist can help determine a patient’s eligibility.
About the expert Aaron Hofmann, M.D., is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and implant designer of hip and knees at The Center for Precision Joint Replacement on the campus of Salt Lake Regional Medical Center. He is also the founder of the Hofmann Arthritis Institute. For more information about the program, please call 866-431-WELL (9355).