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Surgeons Often Are Blamed When Hip Replacements Fail
Date:1/3/2009

Consumers urged to pay more attention to choosing the doctor, not the device

FRIDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Though viewed as a safe and long-lasting way to alleviate hip-related pain, hip-replacement surgery isn't foolproof. And when the procedure fails, the problem more often lies with surgical error than a prosthetic design flaw, a new survey found.

Dislocation of the implant was the most common cause for hip-replacement failure, followed by a loosening of the implant and infections -- such as staph -- that struck either during surgery or later on, the survey said.

"We certainly don't want to give the public the alarming concern that hip-replacement failures are on the rise," said the study's lead author, Dr. Kevin Bozic, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco. "That's not at all what this shows. It's just a single snapshot in time."

"Yet this study is the first to give us information from a very big national database on the cause of failure in a large population, which we didn't previously have," he added. "And what it does suggest is that when hip replacement does fail, the weak link is not the wearing out of the bearing surface, but other problems that in large part are probably related more to the surgical technique used rather than the implant device itself."

Bozic, who's a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, reported his team's findings in the January issue of The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.

The findings could have important ramifications, given that hip replacement is very common in the United States, Bozic said.

"Together with knee-replacement surgery, it's one of the three most common operations," he said. "And the frequency is increasing dramatically because of a number of factors, including an aging population, people having it done at a y
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