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Hip Resurfacing: A Better Option for Some

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Every year, 330-thousand Americans undergo surgery to replace hip joints that have been damaged by age or overuse. After surgery most patients can go back to their normal activities but no running, no jumping and no high impact sports for some people who have been very physically active. Now, new research shows hip resurfacing may be the better option to get them back on their feet.

 Forty-six year old Michael Puertas has been playing squash for three decades racking up an impressive record.

"I've been on the world tour for 10 years. I've won five world title events" Puertas told Ivanhoe.

But three years ago, pain in his right hip began to wake him up at night. Puertas knew surgery was inevitable but giving up squash wasn't an option.

"My consultation with the doctor was that I won a national championship last year, and after this operation, I'd like to win another" Puertas explained.   

Washington University's Robert Barrack, MD, is an Orthopedic Surgeon who specializes in hip surgery.

"With hip resurfacing you don't remove the femoral head. You leave the patient's own normal bone, and just put a metal surface over the cap of it, sort of like capping a tooth" Doctor Barrack explained.

During hip replacement, doctors remove the femoral head and put a five inch stem into the patient's femur.

Barrack and his colleagues studied eight hundred patients age 60 or younger who had either hip replacement or hip resurfacing. One year after the operation, patients who had resurfacing were less likely to limp, had less thigh pain, and were able to return to impact sports.

Barrack says hip resurfacing is not for everyone, the replacement parts are not a good fit for smaller patients or women. But for most highly active patients, resurfacing allows them to get back to doing the things they love.

Puertas told Ivanhoe, "The racquet's going to be in my hand, until they drag it out of my hand."

Ten months after the surgery, Puertas won the U.S. National 40-plus squash championship. He still competes, and coaches men's squash at Washington University in St. Louis.