Research and new developments for hip replacement surgery
Arthritis Research UK is currently funding a review of the status of hip replacements in the UK. This study, based at University of East Anglia, will explore the hip implant market in terms of the number of effective competitors, the range of products, manufacturer size and how easy it is for new manufacturers to enter the market. They’ll use data from the National Joint Registry and Hospital Episode Statistics databases to find out if patients receive the best ‘value-for-money’ implants.
We have also set up a metal-on-metal task force. This is a panel of experts who will investigate the evidence that metal-on-metal joint replacements are possibly bad for patients’ health. This will also help to show what areas of research within this topic we should look into in the future.
Minimally invasive surgery
Minimally invasive surgery is a technique that involves a much smaller cut (incision) and so it causes less damage to the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments). This should mean a shorter recovery period after the operation, although this hasn’t been conclusively shown in clinical trials. There’s no real benefit of minimally invasive surgery in the longer term compared with traditional hip replacement techniques, and the results may not be as good as with conventional surgery because it’s more difficult to position the implants.
At present, minimally invasive surgery is used in only a small proportion of hip replacements because of the problems outlined above. However, it may be more widely used in the future, possibly alongside computer-assisted surgery (also known as image-guided surgery). This uses infrared beacons attached to the patient’s body and to the operating tools to generate images of the inside of the joint. This may allow the components to be placed more precisely.