Hip Replacement & Subchondroplasty

Hip replacement has traditionally been the last resort for patients with arthritis or other degenerative conditions. That may be changing.

One reason is that hip replacement has become more common. As more patients opted for hip replacement, new technologies and surgical procedures were developed to help meet the demand. Over time, replacement became an increasingly mainstream option for a wider and younger range of patients.

But hip replacement is still major surgery, with the risks and recovery time most major surgery involves. Fortunately, a new treatment option offers many hip-replacement candidates a less invasive, less risky alternative.

Subchondroplasty

Subchondroplasty, as the treatment is known, fills gaps in damaged hip joints with a compound that hardens to mimic healthy bone. This injection stimulates the production of real healthy bone around the compound. New bone growth eventually replaces the compound altogether, creating a permanent solution to the problem.

In some ways, this is a more gradual approach: instead of swapping out the hip joint for an artificial one, subchondroplasty relies on time to achieve its full result. But because it is so much less invasive than traditional hip replacement, the new procedure involves significantly less recovery time.

Hip-replacement patients are usually discharged from the hospital after a few days. They then begin an often-difficult recovery at home, managing the pain associated with their surgery and relying on walkers or crutches for several weeks.

Subchondroplasty, on the other hand, usually doesn’t involve an overnight stay. Recovery time can be similar to that of hip replacement, with two or three weeks on walkers or crutches. But patients tend to experience significantly less pain during recovery, and the minimally invasive nature of the procedure invites fewer extra complications.

For some patients, hip replacement will still be the primary long-term option.

Arthritis can progress beyond subchondroplasty’s ability to fix the damage. As we age, we are less able to quickly grow new tissue, meaning that subchondroplasty may not be advisable for older patients.

But for many, including the younger patients who have joined the hip-replacement ranks in recent decades, the new procedure offers a host of advantages.

Because subchondroplasty is a relatively new procedure, no clinical studies are available to document its long-term effectiveness. Zimmer Biomet, which makes the compound involved in subchondroplasty, is currently conducting a post-market clinical outcomes study expected to conclude in March of 2022. In the meantime, interested patients should contact their doctors to see if they are strong candidates for the procedure.

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