"When I started practicing 30 years ago we would take an x-ray if someone had hip pain, and even if they had arthritis and were in their forties, we told them to change their activity and wait," he told Dr. William Maloney, professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University.
No longer. "The technology has fulfilled our patients' desire to stay active," he said.
One of the greatest innovations came in the late 1990s and early 2000s – just in time for the marathon runners who play tennis and play tennis to show signs of wear and tear.
"The industry has found a way to make the implants better," said Robert Cohen, president of digital, robotic and activation technologies at Stryker's orthopedic joint replacement division in Mahwah, NJ. "We used exactly the same plastic – relatively soft but durable – and subjected it to a post-process of heat and radiation that made it even stronger."
The implants made of “highly cross-linked polyethylene” significantly reduced the need for revision surgery. "One of the main reasons for the revision was the breakdown of polyethylene in the replacement compound," he said.
With the advent of the stronger and more durable material, he says, "We've all but eliminated that."
The new implants also contributed to faster recovery times.
"When I was a resident, people were admitted to the hospital for 10 days for a total hip or knee," said Dr. Dorothy Scarpinato in Melville, New York. "Now they'll get her out after a day or two." As a result, she added, "People are not as afraid of this operation as they used to be."
Some of the factors that contribute to shorter hospital stays, according to Dr. Maloney less invasive surgery, accelerated rehabilitation protocols, better pain management methods and the use of regional as opposed to general anesthesia.