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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Hip Disease Not for Seniors Only

Younger, Active Set at Risk of Hip Disease, Surgery

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 24, 2006 (Chicago) -- While most of us assume that hip osteoarthritis (OA) and other diseases of the hip happen primarily to seniors, that's not necessarily true, say orthopaedic surgeons speaking at the 73rd annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in Chicago.

But the good news is that doctors are getting much better at detecting and treating hip conditions in young and active people.

"We are seeing an increasing patient base of adults in their 20s and 30s as well as those in their 40s, 50s, and 60s who lead extremely active lifestyles and put very high demands on their hip joints," said Joseph C. McCarthy, MD, during a news conference. McCarthy is a clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at the New England Baptist Hospital in Boston and president of the American Academy of Hip and Knee Surgeons.

Diagnosing Hip Problems in the Young

Imaging technologies including gadolinium-arthrogram magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are helping doctors better diagnose damaged or torn cartilage and cartilage loss in the hip, he says.

"With conventional MRIs, we don't see a lot of cartilage injury, but the gadolinimum-arthrogram MRI has a bit more contrast [which allows for better viewing]," explains E. Anthony Rankin, MD, a professor of surgery at Howard University and chief of orthopaedics at Providence Hospital, both in Washington. The new MRI technology is the most accurate nonsurgical way to evaluate hip pain that cannot be seen on standard X-rays, conventional MRIs, and computerized tomography (CT) scans.

Surgically, doctors tend to rely on arthroscopy to diagnose hip problems, Rankin says. Arthroscopy involves the use of special instruments that are inserted into tiny incisions to allow a surgeon to view the inside of the body to identify changes in the hip and surrounding tissue that can cause disease.

"This is done more and more for the hips today," Rankin says.

Treatment Looks Better and Better

With improved methods of detection also come improved ways to treat hip disease in younger people. "The real trend is in what we have to offer these patients," he tells WebMD.

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