Why I Chose A Hip Resurfacing Instead Of A Total Hip Replacement
By Pat Walter
My hip hurt, my body hurt and I needed a new hip. I had fought hip pain for almost ten years because I just did not want “half my leg bone cut off” to get a new hip replacement. It just did not make sense to me that doctors were still sawing off a big hunk of a femur bone to replace a hip. We sent men to the moon, had nuclear power and every kind of electronic device imaginable, so why are our operations still old-fashioned?
I asked myself that question quite often. One evening while visiting our local tavern, I was telling a gentleman my feelings about total hip replacement. I am not sure how the conversation started, but perhaps I was complaining about my hip pain. To my surprise, he told me that they don’t have to saw off part of your femur bone to replace a hip any more. I was shocked. I had been doing some internet searching, but had not found information about hip resurfacing yet.
He explained that he had his hip resurfaced with Dr. Schmalzried in California in 2005. With hip resurfacing, the surgeon reshapes the top of your femur bone to accept a cap that is the same size as your original bone, he explained. The cap has a small stem which is placed into a hole that is drilled in the top of the femur bone. A small amount of cement is used to hold the cap in place until new bone grows under the cap. A matching metal cup is placed in the acetabulum of your hip to provide a bearing surface for the cap on the femur bone. It becomes a perfect metal bearing which replaces your injured or arthritic hip joint.
Hip resurfacing is major surgery just as a total hip replacement is. The basic difference is that the doctor does not saw off a major portion of your femur bone and drill a long hole into it to accept the long stem of a total hip replacement device.
Hip resurfacing is bone conserving. The reason that hip resurfacing is a better choice than total hip replacement for many people is that at some time in the future, you could require a revision. The actual hip devices don’t wear out since they are metal, but the bone holding the hip device often deteriorates. The hip device becomes lose and very painful. A revision is then necessary to replace the old hip device. If a person starts with a hip resurfacing and at some point later in life requires a revision, then they have a complete femur bone for the surgeon to work with. If a person starts with a total hip replacement, then the doctor has to break apart the femur bone to remove the long steam of the old total hip device. The femur bone must be wired back together when the new stem is in place. Hip resurfacing allows a much easier revision later in life if it is required.
The second advantage of a hip resurfacing is that the hip device, due to it’s large size, allows a person to return to any of their favorite activities without restrictions or possibility of a dislocation. The old fashioned total hip replacement devices used a very small diameter ball as compared to size of your natural femur bone. The small size of the ball would allow a hip to dislocate easily. The size of the hip resurfacing device is matched very closely to the original size of your hip, so any movements you make are much less likely to cause a dislocation. The hip resurfacing device is acting the same way your natural hip use to function.
I was sixty-one and still felt young when I needed a hip replacement. I had always been very active during my life playing tennis, ice skating, bike riding and participating in other sports. I wanted to remain active and did not want to worry about dislocating a hip after a total hip replacement. I had sixteen dogs and often got on the floor to groom and cut nails. I needed to be as active as possible and the only solution for me was hip resurfacing.
I had my hip resurfaced with a Birmingham Hip Resurfacing, BHR, in March 2006 with Dr. De Smet in Belgium. I did not have health insurance and could not afford surgery in the United States. Dr. De Smet is one of the best hip surgeons in the world and had done over 2400 hip resurfacings when I went to him. My surgery and medical costs were $13,500. The complete trip for my husband and I to Belgium, including the medical costs, was about $17,000. I felt this was the best investment I ever made in my whole life, an investment in my own health and well being.
Birmingham Hip Resurfacing, BHR, was not FDA approved in the United States until May 2006. The BHR had been used world wide for over nine years. Younger, active people all over the world were offered hip resurfacing instead of a total hip replacement. Over 90,000 people world wide have hip resurfacings and now I am one of them. Hip resurfacing has allowed me to be as active as possible without worrying about a dislocation. If you have hip pain and need a new hip, be sure to ask your doctor about hip resurfacing. Although the BHR is FDA approved, many doctors are not trained to do the BHR surgery. It is a more difficult surgery than a THR and requires training and experience. There are many sources available to learn about hip resurfacing like the Surface Hippy Website, a Patient to Patient Guide About Hip Resurfacing, the Yahoo Surface Hippy Discussion Group and many doctor and medical equipment websites.
About the Author: Patricia Walter had her hip resurfaced in March 2006. She is the webmaster and owner of several Patient to Patient Websites about Hip Replacement.