Degenerative joint disease, or osteoarthritis, is painful, debilitating and sometimes requires surgery. In fact, more than 250,000 Americans need hip replacement surgery each year. Often the implant wears out within 10 to 15 years. Now there's a more durable alternative to help stop the suffering.
Stepping down into a pool is the closest 52-year-old Michael Postorino has come to working out in months, and he says it's torture. It wasn't always this way. "I would work out every day, either with running or Stairmaster, sometimes a treadmill," says Michael.
Then osteoarthritis crept into his right hip. A bike accident made matters worse. He says, "It started to scare me because everything started being real difficult to do." He needed a hip replacement.
Harry Steinman, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Orthopedic Associates of West Florida in Clearwater, says, "The nerve endings are in that bone. So as soon as we have weight that comes across the hip, you can immediately sense that you have pain and the inability to place weight normally across the hips."
Since a traditional plastic implant would wear out within Michael's lifetime, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steinman used a new metal implant instead.
A cup with a metal lining is inserted into the pelvic socket. Then, the top of the thigh bone is replaced with a metal ball mounted on a long stem.
"The traditional implant has the problem of metal against polyethylene plastic," says Dr. Steinman. "The polyethylene, over time, wears away."
Steinman says the new metal implant should last 20 to 30 years, which means patients may avoid a second surgery.
After four weeks off his feet, Michael says he can't wait to start working out and coaching again. "I want to be able to play basketball with my kids, shoot around a little bit. They think they're better than me now, and I've got to show them they're not yet (laughs)."
The new implant may improve his mobility, but there's no guarantee it will improve his game.
Dr. Steinman says the metal-on-metal implant costs 10 to 15 percent more than a traditional hip replacement. He says when you compare that to the cost of redoing a hip later on, metal is a more economical investment.
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