One of the problems associated with hip arthritis at an early age is that hip replacement is unlikely to be a life-long solution. People under 55 who are given a hip prosthesis can find that their artificial hip fails. Part of the problem is that all artificial hips, particularly those made with a plastic component wear out. The more active you are, the faster this happens, so younger, more active people have a greater chance their replacement hip only lasting about 10 years, making it necessary for them to have a hip revision.
This second operation is technically more difficult, and success rates are lower in terms of movement and quality of life.
The alternative of hip resurfacing
Since the 1990s, hip resurfacing has been developed as an alternative to complete hip replacement and has been put forward as a better option for younger patients. Hip resurfacing is carried out at an earlier stage of hip arthritis; metal covers are placed over the ball of the joint and inside the socket to prevent further bone damage.
After several years, if a complete hip replacement is needed this can be done more easily; the head of the femur is removed, along with its metal cap, and the entire joint is replaced. Evidence shows that the ideal person who can benefit from hip resurfacing is an active man under 55 years old.
Long term data on hip resurfacing
As with all developments in hip arthritis therapy, new surgical methods need to compare well to the tried and trusted complete hip replacement technique. All data from patients who receive either hip resurfacing or complete hip replacement is collected by the UK National Joint Registry and their latest figures show that it is wise to take the advice of your surgeon, whether NHS-based or private. Hip resurfacing in people who are ideal candidates does produce some very good results – hip revision rates are low and patients are happy with the outcome.
Unfortunately, people who are not quite perfect for hip resurfacing still have the procedure, and so the general rates of hip revision are high. For example, a woman of 65 who has hip resurfacing is ten times more likely to need hip revision less than three years later compared to a woman of the same age who has a complete hip replacement.
Taking advice on hip resurfacing
If your surgeon thinks that hip resurfacing is right for you after completing detailed examinations, then it probably is. However, patients that suggest or even insist on hip resurfacing when their orthopaedic specialist says that a complete hip replacement, done in the traditional way, is the better option are inviting problems.
If hip resurfacing is likely to be beneficial, it is wise to choose a surgeon to do the operation who is very experienced in the technique and whose patients have low rates of hip revision. Private hip resurfacing is well worth considering; one of the main advantages of private orthopaedic treatment is that it offers far greater choice for you the patient in terms of who will do the surgery and where it will take place.