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The hip thing: Hip replacement alternative is being performed in Rockford




Business: Healthcare

April 1, 2007

By R. Vergara

ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR

Baby boomers are hitting retirement age, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking it easy.

The generation that listened to The Who singing “hope I die before I get old” in the 1960s is redefining what it means to be old in the new millennium.

They’re remodeling the home and digging up the garden. They’re golfing, running, cycling and chasing grandchildren, or their own.

in joints

But there’s one thing even baby boomers can’t control: what aging does to their joints.

Luckily, the technology, tools and medicine used to treat joints has vastly improved, so much that one new procedure has been made for the baby boomer.

The Birmingham Hip Resurfacing System is a new alternative to the total hip replacement. In the northern Illinois region, only one surgeon, Mark Barba of Rockford Orthopedic Associates, is trained to do it.

It’s recommended for people younger than 60 who are active and want to return to their mobile lifestyle. In comparison, a hip replacement is usually meant for patients in their late 60s and early 70s who live a sedentary lifestyle. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it just last May, the procedure has been done 60,000 times around the world since 1997.

The arrival of the Birmingham hip replacement to the United States sends a clear message about this age group: baby boomers want to stay active, and they’re searching for every possible way to climb, bike and swim for years and decades to come.

The procedure

Lucinda Tucker, 52, of Rockford was one of those people. She waited almost five years for a Birmingham hip to quell the end-stage osteoarthritis in her hip. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease also known as “wear and tear” arthritis, is one of four main diseases that could call for a hip replacement or resurfacing.

“I had to use a cane because I limped so badly. I got where I didn’t go shopping anymore. I did the Internet when it came to birthday presents. I used to walk my dogs three miles a day,” she said.

Doctors told her she was too young for a hip replacement and needed to wait. Given her age and active lifestyle, a total hip replacement would last just 10 or 15 years, she said.

“It’s kind of like miles you put on tires. The more miles you put on the quicker they wear out. The more active you are, the more you wear out your hip,” she said.

Internet research on the Birmingham hip led her to Barba, an orthopedic surgeon who received training in England from the maker of the implant. Only 400 U.S. surgeons are trained for a Birmingham hip resurfacing. Barba has done a dozen surgeries at Rockford Memorial Hospital and OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center since September.

Tucker gladly scheduled the procedure for a few reasons.

In a total hip replacement, the femoral head, or ball, is sacrificed and replaced by a metal ball. That is then attached to a metal stem that goes into the shaft of the femur. The socket is replaced with metal and plastic components.

But with the Birmingham hip, more bone is conserved, Barba said. The implant involves two parts: a metal cap anchored by a pin, that locks into the femoral neck and a metal socket that hooks into the pelvis bone. Only a few centimeters of bone around the ball are shaved to fit tightly inside the hip implant.

It’s also made entirely of cobalt chrome making it more durable and longer lasting than a total hip implant. Traditionally, only the ball in a hip replacement is made from cobalt chrome and the socket is lined with a plastic cup, which could wear out over time, according to the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing Web site.

The dislocation rate is also virtually nonexistent. Dislocation is the leading cause of implant failure in a total hip replacement, according to thesite. Still, a total hip replace-ment is performed 300,000 times a year in the U.S.

Recovery time after hip resurfacing is also impressive. Barba estimates that a patient could bicycle three to six months after surgery and run after one year.






In a total hip replacement, patients cannot cross their legs and must sleep a certain way. Also, “you’re limited to not bending past 90 degrees for the first half of the year,” Barba said.

Patients should know that the Birmingham is not for everybody. “This is a hip procedure for a young person who has high demands and expects a lot out of the hip,” he said.

Doctors differ on what age is the cutoff for resurfacing, somewhere between 60 and 65, largely dependent on the patient’s bone strength. Nor do all insurers cover it.

Joint replacements to surge Although the Birmingham hip only gained FDA approval last May, its arrival in the U.S. couldn’t come at a better time.

According to the National Institute on Aging, 300,000 Americans have joints replaced each year. That number is expected to grow.

About 35 million people, or 13 percent of the country’s population, are 65 and older. More than half of them have evidence of osteoarthritis in at least one joint, according to the Osteoarthritis Initiative, a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and various private agencies. By 2030, 20 percent of Americans — about 70 million people — will have passed their 65th birthday.

In Winnebago County, people ages 45 to 64 make up 25 percent of the population. About 12 percent of residents are 65 years and older, according to the 2005 American Community Survey.

Local orthopedic surgeons are also concerned about the trends. Rockford Orthopedic Associates’ 14 physicians replace more than 700 joints yearly and expect that number to surge dramatically.

Changing times

A lot of it has to do with the characteristics of this generation. Take Chuck Voorhies of Rockford. The 46-year-old with a Birmingham hip implant said he was “too young” to have any kind of hip replacement.

“I was in denial at first. I told them they must’ve been mistaken,” the once avid softball player said.

But he didn’t want to feel old either, says his wife, Debra. “He was frustrated with everything because he still had pain. He left like he wasn’t useful anymore,” she said.

Before the onset of back, knee and hip problems in the past five years, Voorhies was the type of guy who did everything to stay busy. He remodeled his bathroom and kitchen and mowed the lawn of his one-acre property. Meanwhile, his knees were growing stiff and he was walking with a limp.

His Birmingham hip, done by Barba in December, now allows him to feel young again. This summer, he plans to get back into golf. He already swims five times a week.

“He feels like how he should feel instead of feeling old. He’s not in pain anymore. He can cross his legs now and he hasn’t done that in a long time,” Debra said.

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