Andy Murray’s hip-smoothing operation had a miraculous result – no more pain, no more limping, and he’s back playing Grand Slams.
He’s not alone. Currently, 95,000 Brits undergo hip replacements every year. They spend up to five days in hospital, unable to walk. But thanks to new, minimally invasive surgery being introduced to the NHS, patients will go home within 24 hours.
How is this possible? The secret is a new technique that’s hardly invasive at all and avoids cutting through muscles and tendons, making the procedure far less painful and easier to recover from.
The hip joint is a ball socket joint. The “ball” is on the end of the thigh bone (femur) and the “socket” is in the pelvic bone. The traditional ops replace the damaged ball and socket with new, artificial parts.
It’s a treatment for arthritic hip joints where the cartilage has worn away, mainly in patients aged between 60 and 80 who develop joint arthritis.
In a traditional hip replacement, the surgeon makes a large cut of roughly 20cm through the thigh muscle and dislocates the hip to make room to insert the new joint. But the new method requires an incision of just 5cm. And rather than cutting through the muscle, it’s simply moved aside. No dislocation is needed either because the surgeon uses special tools to reach the damaged socket.
“The approach causes very little damage to the tissue around the hip,” says Ashwin Kulkarni, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. “This means there’s less blood loss and pain, and recovery is much quicker. Patients are able to get back their full hip function very quickly.”
The operation takes an hour under general anaesthetic. Through a 5cm incision on the buttock, the hip muscles are moved to either side to expose the joint then the hip capsule is cut through to expose the ball.
The surgeon then cuts off the old, damaged ball attached to the end of the thigh bone. The old socket is replaced with a new titanium socket with a cushioned plastic or ceramic liner.
The new artificial ball is attached to a titanium stem which fills the hollow in the femur and it’s put in position inside the pelvic socket. The muscles are then put back in position and the wound stitched up.
Hip replacement is already one of the most effective surgeries in medicine today.
With this new minimally invasive technique it’s approaching miraculous.