Hip replacements are a commonplace medical procedure that can be found taking place at hospitals throughout the UK on a very regular basis, and it is also an operation that highlights the various stages of medical evolution we have experienced as techniques and technology have improved over time.

As technology has helped to make hip and knee replacement surgery more effective, more patients do not approach the prospect of having this operation done with the same level of fear or dread that they used to.

There are still certain risks and historical problems and unfortunately this means that some patients need to make a claim for medical negligence through a specialist company like Axiclaim. Here is a look at the history of hip replacement and some of the known dangers and problems that still need addressing.

The first hip replacement

The very first recorded hip replacement surgery to take place was in Germany was believed to be in 1891, when ivory was used as the material to replace the femoral head, which is the ball on the femur.

Columbia Hospital in South Carolina, USA, in 1940 witnessed the first metallic hip replacement surgery, which was performed by Dr Austin Moore. A Burmese orthopaedic surgeon called Dr San Baw was the pioneer of ivory hip prostheses and his first of over 300 patients using this method was an 83 year old Buddhist Nun, who had a fractured hip bone.

It has been reported that Dr San Baw’s success rate for being able to allow his patients the opportunity to walk and ride a bike within just a few weeks of surgery, was close to 90%. This paved the way for modern hip replacement surgery where most patients can expect to walk immediately post-operation.

What we know now

Hip replacement surgery encapsulates how human ingenuity can sometimes rival or surpass what nature seems to manage so easily. There is no argument that the human skeleton has to be considered a biomechanical wonder, with no less than 260 joints using basic designs to their maximum efficiency.

The ball, hinge, pivot and socket are utilised in ingenious ways to provide maximum stability and mobility and hip replacements emulate those simple but effective components to give patients a new lease of life.

The problem has been with the materials that have been used in the past for hip replacements and that is why certain types of metal-on-metal hip replacements are now banned in the UK. What we know now is that hip replacement surgery can be very effective and provide a positive outcome in terms of mobility, but the choice of materials used is crucial.


Anyone who has already had a metal hip implant, should have annual health checks for the rest of their life according to NHS advice.

There are concerns that all-metal devices wear down at an accelerated rate for some patients and this could potentially leak traces of metal into the bloodstream. This one of a number of known risks associated with hip replacement surgery that you have to be aware of.

Problems with cement used in hip surgery

Another issue that has come to light is the cement that has been used in thousands of hip operations has been linked to a number of deaths in the UK. There were 62 cases of a rare reaction called bone cement implantation syndrome (BCIS) which occurred during a seven year period.

BCIS has been known to occur as a result of the cement managing to disrupt circulation in the hip joint, which in turn, causes the patient’s blood pressure to drop. This has had fatal consequences in some situations by causing the heart to stop working.

The risk of BCIS is estimated to be around one person in every 2,900 patients and when you look at hip replacement surgery numbers overall, it still has to be said that the majority of operations and outcomes are positive and have no subsequent complications.

Death rates linked to hip replacement surgery have actually fallen by nearly 50% between 2003 and 2011 according to a study carried out by The Lancet and it is believed that better physiotherapy and improved fitness of the patients undergoing the procedure, have been contributing factors to the decrease.

There are always risks associated with any major surgery, but hip replacement is a very commonplace procedure these days and hopefully the number of deaths will continue to decline as post-operative practices continue to improve.

Scott Thomas is a health industry researcher and consultant. He enjoys keeping up with the latest health research and sharing his insights online. His articles mainly focus on tackling common health misconceptions.

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  1. George Nieman says:

    The report that states that The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has plans to raise MPs pay by ten per cent now wants to bar the public from hearings which may involve MPs under suspicion of being involved in a expenses scandal. The public who are the pay-masters of MPs must be informed at all times of such accusations. We are once again showing just how much we are drifting away from democracy in the UK.

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