Health Team

Bone Resurfacing Can Add Life to Joints

When a joint wears down, replacement may seem like the logical option, but there is another procedure available -- one that is suited for baby boomers.

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NEW YORK — Every year, more than 400,000 Americans need hip surgery. Now, there's a new alternative to standard hip-replacement surgery for baby boomers.

Fred Rhyner suffered pain in both hips, but the right side was the worse.

"It's agonizing and it hurts. It hurts constantly and even when I go to bed at night, the pain is there," he said.

The hip is a ball in a socket. When the cartilage covering both sides wears down, it can create extreme arthritic pain.

Total hip replacement provides relief by replacing part of the thigh bone and ball. The problem is a new hip can begin to wear out in just 20 years and Fred is only 54 years old, so Dr. Justin Lamont offers a new remedy -- bone resurfacing.

The procedure resurfaces both the ball and the cup. The arthritic surface is removed and replaced with metal.

While resurfacing is an option for some people who need hip surgery, health experts said it is not for everyone. It cannot be done on people with thinning bones and not all insurers cover it.

Surgery and recovery time are similar, but re-surfacing may offer better function and a more natural feel.

"There have been some very dramatic instances of people running marathons, people winning judo championships," Lamont said.

Six weeks after surgery, Rhyner's right hip feels great.

"I could tell right after the surgery that all that arthritis pain was gone and now I'm pain-free," Rhyner said.

Rhyner said he now wants to have the other side done. Hips are not the only joint baby boomers are rough on. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons suggests the demand for knee replacements will jump 600 percent in the next 25 years.


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