Repeat hip replacement patients can breathe easy now. For a new orthopaedic tool designed by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers in Australia could help slash the healing time from six weeks to just a few days.
QUT Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation researcher Dr Ben Goss said advancing technology had made implanting hip replacements easy, but replacing them was much harder to do.
"The average hip replacement needs replacing after 10 to 15 years, but the recovery time for the second time around is weeks longer than the original procedure," Dr Goss said.
"That's because the 'bone cement', the compound used to stick the hip implant into the bone, is very hard and is difficult to remove."
Dr Goss said when surgeons gave patients their initial hip replacement, the leg bone was hollowed from one end and the artificial hip joint was inserted and kept in place with bone cement.
"But when the prosthesis is replaced, the bone is sliced several times length-ways to chip out the bone cement, causing a much bigger wound in the bone for the body to heal," he said.
"It's a minimum of six weeks before you can walk on it, whereas the original hip replacement can be walked on within days."
Dr Goss along with Dr Cameron Lutton and Dr Lance Wilson have designed a tool that revolutionises the way bone cement is removed.
The tool received first prize in the inaugural bluebox Discovery Competition, run by QUT's commercialisation company, for its commercial applicability and potential to provide benefits to the community, industry or government.
"It works in a similar way to the original hollowing out of the bone," he said.
"This means the bone is not cut open, keeping recovery time down to just a few days."
Dr Goss said last year, nearly 3771 hip replacements needed revision surgery in Australia alone.
"It's not good for anyone of any age to have to recover from surgery as severe as having their bone sliced open, but if you are elderly, this is especially difficult to recover from," he said.