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Diagnostic hope for painful artificial hips

3rd August 2007

An engineer has developed a better way to help hip-replacement patients whose implants have become loose, it was announced yesterday.

Dr James Cunningham, of the University of Bath's Department of Mechanical Engineering, has designed a diagnostic test using ultrasound which works by measuring the frequency of the sound produced when the femur is vibrated.

Traditionally, x-rays are used to identify loosening of the joint, which affects about a quarter of hip-replacement patients, causing them pain.

Dr Cunningham said: "This finding is important because surgeons need to know if the pain the patient is feeling comes from a loose joint needing surgery, or from another cause.

He added: "The ultrasound method is better than any other method available now, including the traditional x-ray procedure, which can only pick up a large amount of loosening."

Around 50,000 people have an artificial hip fitted in the UK each year, according to figures from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

Dr Cunningham hopes that the NHS will develop the device for use in hospitals.