Because of the success of hip replacement surgery, this procedure is being performed in younger and younger patients. The problem is that hip replacements wear out over time. The average hip replacement lasts about 25 years--some longer, some shorter. However, hip replacements are known to wear out more quickly in younger, more active patients.
When a hip replacement wears out, a repeat hip replacement, or revision hip replacement, must be performed. Unfortunately, revision hip replacement surgeries are more complicated, and the results of surgery are not as good. Because of this, orthopedists make every effort to delay hip replacement until an age where the hip implant will hopefully last the patient's lifetime.
Obviously, no one can accurately predict exactly how long a hip replacement will last. But we do know that hip replacements tend to wear out fastest in young patients. Because of this, new developments in types of hip implants are constantly being investigated. Ceramic hip replacements are among the new prosthesis types being implanted into some patients. Ceramic hip implants are thought by some orthopedic surgeons to have superior abilities to withstand wearing over time.
Latest DevelopmentsCeramic hip replacements have been developed in an effort to decrease the wearing out of hip implants. Ceramic hip replacement implants are very hard, and very smooth. These characteristics could help to decrease the amount of wear within the implants.
In the traditional metal and plastic hip replacements, the plastic wears out slowly over time. As the plastic wears out, small particles of plastic debris are generated. This plastic debris triggers a response by your body which can lead to loosening of the implants over time.
Plastic wear is quite slow--an average of 0.1 millimeters each year! However, even this tiny amount of wear generates millions of particles of wear debris. In the ceramic hip replacements, the amount of wear is a small fraction of this amount. By generating less wear debris, the hope is that hip replacements would not loosen as quickly.
BackgroundTotal hip replacement surgery is among the most successful procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons. Patients with severe hip arthritis, hip osteonecrosis, or other complex hip problems, can have excellent outcomes when treated with hip replacement. Long-term studies have demonstrated excellent outcomes. About 90% of patients still have their hip replacement working well after 10 years, and about 80% of patients still have a functioning hip replacement after 20 years.
Orthopedic surgeons are constantly looking for ways to improve the length of time a hip replacement will last. Because of the low wear rates of ceramic hip replacement implants, surgeons hope these implants will last longer than the traditional metal and plastic implants.
The problem is, there are no long-term studies evaluating the newest ceramic hip replacements. No one knows for sure how well these hip implants will perform over time. Furthermore, the metal and plastic implants are known to work very well, and have an excellent track record. While the ceramic hip replacements may be better, there is little proof to support that idea.