Wall Street Journal—May 1, 2009
By JAMES TARANTO
A decade earlier, I would have had a total hip replacement, which entails amputating the head and neck of the femur and inserting a stem into what's left of the bone. This is a proven therapy, but it is problematic for younger patients. Most total hip replacements use a plastic socket, which works very well at first but tends to wear out within a decade or two. To slow the socket's deterioration, the ball is smaller than a natural hip, but that poses a risk of dislocation. Total-hip patients are ambulatory and pain-free, but if they are young -- I was in my early 40s -- they face restrictions on their physical activity and the likelihood that they will outlive the prosthesis and need more surgery.
Now there is an alternative with none of these drawbacks: the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing, named for England's second city, where inventor Derek McMinn practices orthopedic surgery. More than 100,000 BHRs have been implanted world-wide since 1997, with an overall failure rate of less than 4%. Because the BHR preserves most of the femur, it is easier to replace with a total-hip implant if it does fail. Dr. McMinn tells me that among his patients who were under 55 at the time of surgery, "92% play sport, and 62% play impact sport."
When Dr. Boettner decided last May that I was ready for surgery, I had to wait only until he was available to perform it. I received my new hip July 18, and it was the best medical experience of my life. The pain was gone immediately. I was walking on crutches the next morning and using my cane 11 days later. By the last week of August, I was striding unassisted through Denver, where I had gone to cover the Democratic National Convention. The implant sets off airport metal detectors, but otherwise my life is back to normal. Being born in America was a lucky break after all.
Mr. Taranto is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
Read the full story at wsj.com.