Elderly people undergoing hip replacement surgery may be able to leave hospital the same day, thanks to a new procedure being offered on the NHS. At present, patients spend up to five days receiving care before they are able to return home, but the new high-tech approach will be less invasive, cutting recovery time significantly.
Instead of cutting through muscles and tendons, surgeons will simply move them aside to fit the replacement hip joint. There’s also no need to dislocate the damaged hip, as a series of deft movements using specialised tools enables them to remove it in a gentler manner.
Some 95,000 hip replacement surgeries are carried out in Britain each year and the recipients of the new joints are usually aged between 60 and 80. They are most commonly due to arthritis, which is the result of cartilage wearing away between the bones of the joint.
Arthritis is not only painful but also prevents the sufferer from moving properly, impacting their independence. In order to fix this, patients have traditionally needed a relatively long period of rehabilitation after surgery before getting around on their improved joints.
Now, using the SuperPath technique, surgeons only need to make a five-centimetre incision in the thigh, instead of 20 centimetres like before. Avoiding dislocating the joint also makes it stronger in the long-run, giving patients peace of mind while adjusting to their new hip.
Ashwin Kulkarni, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said: “The approach causes very little damage to the tissue around the hip. 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 itself will take around an hour and the patient will be put under general anaesthetic before the hip capsule - tissue around the hip - is sliced open with a hot scalpel to expose the ball. A drill is then used to make a vertical hole inside the thigh bone, before the original ball from the hip is cut away from the thigh bone and removed.
It’s then time for the surgeon to reshape the old socket and fit a titanium replacement that includes a cushioned plastic or ceramic liner, helping it to feel more comfortable. The new joint is then inserted into the hole in the thigh bone by a titanium-alloy stem and carefully positioned inside the pelvic socket before the muscles are moved back into place and the incision is sealed up.
Mr Kulkarni added: “Early recovery and discharge benefits everyone. The patient first and foremost, but also the hospital as it means less use of beds, equipment and resources. As there is an extremely small risk of dislocation compared to the standard procedure, the patient can do almost anything post-surgery, without the fear of dislocation.”
Patients who have undergone the procedure as part of the trial process have been amazed at home quickly they have recovered and how little pain they’ve felt in the aftermath of surgery. Around 80 per cent of people who have hip replacements will be able to have them completed via SuperPath.