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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

Treatment Looks Better and Better continued...

"Hip disease in younger people typically results from congenital disorders, trauma, or developmental issues," Rankin explains.

And "we haven't really had the ability to address this surgically in the past as earlier hip replacements were reserved primarily for elderly people who are not especially active, don't place a high demand on their joints, and did not have a long life expectancy," he says. But "today's replacement hips are more durable and increasingly being done in younger populations."

Today, "advances include longer-lasting implants that won't take as much of the bone during the initial operation," he says. "We are preserving bone stock, so if you do have to have another replacement surgery, we have more to work with."

Though hip replacements are highly successful operations, they don't last forever, and if a person undergoes one at a young age, there is a high likelihood he or she will have to undergo more replacement surgery in the future.

What's more, some younger people may also be candidates for a less-invasive joint replacement-type procedure known as hip resurfacing. During this procedure, surgeons smooth out the hip to repair a cartilage tear. "These less-invasive procedures offer less risk, a faster rehabilitation to return to work and an active lifestyle, and less long-term activity restrictions in selected patients," McCarthy explains.

Thomas P. Schmalzried, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon and associate medical director of the Joint Replacement Institute in Los Angeles, says resurfacing is best used among people who are at risk for failure of a total hip replacement. "In general, these are young and active patients with good bone in the proximal femur, or the tip of the thigh bone," he explained during a news briefing.

Rankin says osteotomy is still used frequently to treat hip disease. Osteotomy or "bone cutting" is a procedure in which a surgeon removes a wedge of bone near a damaged joint to shift weight from an area where there is damaged cartilage to an area where there is more or healthier cartilage.

Prevention Still Gold Standard

"Most joint surgeons would like to preserve the native joint for as long as possible," Rankin says.

"We still don't know exactly what causes OA, but "athletes and active people do tend to develop joint wear and tear."

The best ways to preserve joint health and function are to keep weight down and stay active, he says. "Exercise is important, but exercise that involves pounding on the joint may make a person more likely to develop hip problems."

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