Joint Replacement: A Primer

more than 40,000 total hip and knee joint replacements are performed in Canada each year and an estimated 35 per cent were performed on patients under 65. Dr. John McCall, an orthopedic surgeon based in Collingwood, Ont., who performed one of the first hip replacement operations in Canada in the ’70s, says the basic principal of joint replacement hasn’t changed significantly since the procedure was pioneered by Sir John Charnley in England in the 1960s.
“It’s still a gold standard,” says McCall, who attended Charnley’s lectures when he was a young doctor. Recent advancements include:

Advanced engineering of the replacement joint, which ensures a better fit, often eliminating the need for “cement,” which results in better function.

Hip resurfacing, where the femoral head is largely preserved, reshaped and covered with a metal cup, thus preserving much of the patient’s own bone and resulting in better range of movement.
The development of new materials, which allows strong, more versatile joint replacement.
Use of smaller incisions, which results in a faster recovery.
While McCall, who himself is a mountaineer, applauds Chalmers for his achievements, he cautions that not everyone will be able to climb mountains after joint replacement. Although a pioneer of joint replacement, McCall strongly suggests patients try non-invasive methods such as weight reduction, and increased physical activity to improve muscle strength to help compensate for joint degeneration, before turning to replacement surgery. –RA