New Bones for Old(er) Bodies?

Innovative Hip Resurfacing, Joint Replacement Attracting Attention of Baby Boomers

What’s an aging baby boomer to do when the bones start to go?

Baby boomers, the generation born from 1946 to 1964, continue to be active, both physically and as consumers. This group may be aging but they are unwilling to accept physical discomfort or limitations without a plan of action to beat back the clock.’

Many of them are looking to their physicians and health care systems for new ways to handle an old problem – aging, worn out bones and joints. This has led to increased demand for joint replacement surgery and alternatives.

“We are seeing more active, middle aged men and women with joint problems and injuries who want a solution that will get them back out there fast,” said Thomas Malvitz, M.D, of Orthopedic Associates of Grand Rapids and the Orthopedic Department chairman for Spectrum Health Grand Rapids. “This is an active group who are looking for choices and who tend to ask a lot of questions about traditional solutions, such as hip or knee replacements.”

Spectrum Health, the largest health care provider in West Michigan, is responding to this demand.

Malvitz and Spectrum Health are among the first health care organizations in Michigan to offer an alternative to hip replacement. Birmingham Hip ResurfacingTM (BHR) is offered at the Center for Joint Replacement at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital. Instead of a total hip replacement, hip resurfacing simply shaves and caps a few centimeters of bone within the joint.

“Hip resurfacing may be an ideal alternative for younger, active patients,” said Malvitz. “The procedure enables patients to be free from pain but not as limited in their mobility and activity level as a conventional hip replacement.”

The bone-conserving approach of the BHR preserves more of the patient’s natural bone structure and stability. It covers the joint’s surfaces with an all-metal implant that more closely resembles a tooth cap than a hip implant. This approach reduces the post-operative risks of dislocation and inaccurate leg length.’The all-metal implant is made from tough, smooth cobalt chrome and has the potential to last longer than traditional hip implants.

“While the BHR implant closely matches the size of a patient’s natural femoral head or ball, it is substantially larger than the femoral head of a traditional total hip replacement implant,” added Malvitz. “This increased size translates to greater stability in the new joint, and it decreases the chance of dislocation of the implant after surgery. Dislocation is a leading cause of implant failure after total hip replacement.”

Total hip replacement involves the removal of the entire femoral head and neck. The BHR technique leaves the head and neck untouched. The neck length and angle determine the natural length of a patient’s leg after surgery, and since it is not removed and replaced with an artificial device during the resurfacing procedure, there is greater likelihood of maintaining accurate leg length.’

“The best candidate for the BHR technique is the younger, active patient who will likely need another replacement in their lifetime.’By preserving the patient’s native femoral head and neck, the second or revision replacement can be done with primary or standard implants,” explained Malvitz.’

The BHR resurfacing technique was approved for use in the U.S. in May 2006.’ The first patient underwent hip resurfacing at Spectrum Health in October 2006.’

Another group of patients in need of joint repair or replacements are those middle age patients who are overweight.

“Obesity is a real problem for all generations and the baby boomers are no exception,” said Malvitz. “Our bones, particularly as we age, can’t handle the extra weight. For many of our patients, along with surgery, we encourage healthy weight maintenance – and exercise – as a solution.”

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through its seven hospitals, more than 140 service sites and 560,000-member health plan, Priority Health.’Spectrum Health’s 14,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care to those in medical need.’The organization provided more than $100 million in community benefit during its 2007 fiscal year. Spectrum Health has earned more than 50 national awards during the past 10 years.