History of Hip Replacements

If you are a patient facing a hip replacement, you might be curious how this procedure has evolved since orthopedic doctors began performing it. The following is a brief history of how far this surgery has come.


Early Surgeries

It may surprise you to know that hip replacements have been performed for well over 100 years, with the earliest known attempts as far back as 1891. In those early procedures, orthopedic surgeons employed ivory as the replacement material. For the next 30 years other organic materials were used in trials to create a surface to cushion the ball and socket arrangement.

Other Materials and Designs

In the 1920s, hip replacement surgeons attempted to use glass as joint replacement material. As one might imagine, the material shattered under the forces routinely placed on a hip joint. A few decades later, metal options came into the picture with the use of a cobalt-chrome prosthetic. The metal could better withstand impacts, but had an unfortunate after-effect. As wear and tear occurred, metal particles could enter the surrounding body tissue and create a major problem. A modification to the design in later decades helped reduce this issue by making the surfaces exposed to friction much smaller.

Combinations of metal and plastics have been used, as well as ceramics, all in an effort to produce a strong prosthetic that does not leave behind debris in surrounding tissue as it gradually wears. Today’s prosthetics are usually a metal ball with a plastic socket.

The Surgery

Hip replacement techniques have also made incredible advances over the last century. Incisions made to perform the required steps have diminished from several inches long to just a few inches. The tools used are minuscule. Computers are now used to both map the existing anatomy and assist in performing the procedure. Post-surgical risks are not as high as in the past, due to a less invasive and traumatic method.

Hip replacement surgery continues to evolve and advance, all in the effort to achieve a better outcome with the longest possible life span and quality of life for patients.


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