New type of hip replacement could slash waiting lists

A new surgical technique for hip operations that could rapidly reduce waiting lists and recovery times is being pioneered by a group of surgeons at Aberdeen’s Woodend Hospital.

Thursday, 14th January 2021, 8:51 am
Updated Friday, 15th January 2021, 9:19 am
Woodend Hospital.
Woodend Hospital.

The technique, called a direct anterior approach, is prominent in Belgium, Australia, and the USA – but is scarcely used in the UK public sector.

Dr Chris Munro, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Woodend, is leading a group of six consultants looking to increase the prominence of the method, which reduces the operation time and recovery period for patients receiving hip replacements.

The approach allows patients to complete hip rehabilitation more quickly and reduces the risk of complications during an operation.

“With an anterior hip replacement, you preserve the muscles around the hip far better than the current surgical approach,” Dr Munro explains.

“That means people get off walking aids and get back to doing normal things much more quickly.

“Traditionally, someone who had a hip replacement would take two or three days to leave the hospital. As a routine for replacements that I’ve done so far using the direct anterior approach, around 90% have gone home the next day.

“It also reduces the risk of dislocation, which is a serious complication where the ball pops out of the socket. The risk of that generally is fairly low if it’s done by an experienced surgeon, but anything you can do to reduce the risk further is a good thing.”

The procedure has not yet been adopted widely throughout the UK, making Aberdeen one of the few locations that offer anterior hip replacements to patients.

“I’m not aware of anywhere else that is doing it routinely at the moment,” Munro says. “That’s good for Aberdeen.

“I know it is happening in London, but that’s mostly in the private sector.

“It really is very limited across the UK.”

Although the new method of hip surgery uses slightly more expensive equipment, Dr Munro – who has worked in Aberdeen hospitals since 2009 – argues that this cost is comfortably offset by the shorter stay patients have to endure in hospital post-operation.

“There are modest increases in costs with some of the consumables that we use for each case,” he admits.

“But those are offset by the fact that you can get people home quicker.

“If we can get people back to work more quickly, back to recreation more quickly, and off medication more quickly, then this will have societal and economic benefits more widely.”

Despite his optimism for the treatment, Dr Munro does not want to make overly ambitious promises for patients.

Though the direct anterior approach is a faster and more cost-effective method, this kind of hip replacement will last just as long as one using the current technique.

“I’m a big believer in this technique.

“Its usage in other countries like Belgium, Australia and the USA shows that it can be done safely and that it can have benefits for the future.

“But it’s still an operation, it still has benefits and risks like any other hip replacement. Early results have been promising, [but] we’re still collecting data.

“We’re at a time in healthcare where we need to look at how we can manage people safely and efficiently whilst getting the best value for money for healthcare.

“There are a lot of people waiting for hip replacements and that’s a big burden on society, particularly following Covid.”