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Groundbreaking Surgery At North Shore Hospital

25 AUGUST 2003

Groundbreaking Surgery At North Shore Hospital

Surgeons at North Shore and Middlemore hospitals are triallng a new technique in hip replacement operations that can see patients walking the same day of surgery.

Eighty-one-year old North Shore resident John Bassett was up and walking around six hours after his recent hip replacement operation at North Shore Hospital.

Hospital orthopaedic surgeons Hugh Blackley, Clayton Chan and visiting expert Professor Bo Nivbrant from Perth, Western Australia recently performed two operations using the technique. Two further operations are also due to be performed at Middlemore Hospital.

Mr Blackley says the same replacement joints that have been used for the past 20 years are still used. The difference is in the size of the incisions, which are about 3 – 5cm compared with the 25 – 30cm incisions of conventional surgery.

“The technique is called minimal incision surgery which means we access the joint through two small incisions using x-ray guidance to avoid damaging the hip muscles.”

Traditionally the surgery requires the surgeon to cut through more muscle.

Mr Bassett, who received a conventional hip replacement operation two years ago says, although he was very pleased with his recovery at the time, this technique has allowed a much speedier, easier recovery.

Six hours after his operation he was up and walking around. The next day he was climbing a set of stairs and ready to go home.

North Shore Hospital senior physiotherapist Sarah Levien says most people are doing these types of exercises about a week after surgery.

“The main difference between this method and traditional is that the hip is a lot stronger - the muscles are not so weak so the patient is able to control their leg a lot more.”

The pioneering technique, brought to New Zealand by Professor Nivbrant, is only suitable for about 20 to 30 per cent of patients. It also requires specific surgical training, is more difficult and takes slightly longer to perform.

Professor Nivbrant says the technique and it outcomes are being monitored through major studies in Western Australia.

“It’s a definite saving for hospitals. In Australia one of the biggest problems is the lack of beds.

“We have big and very serious studies looking at the patient’s function and recovery. It’s definitely the way of future.”

Mr Blackley says surgeons are still in the early stages of performing the new technique.

“Professor Nivbrant’s input to teaching surgeons at North Shore and Middlemore hospitals has been very valuable, as well as sharing knowledge.

“It’s hoped that as we get more experience the technique will be taken up by more surgeons.”

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