Hips, and knees, and backs, and shoulders…

C.J. Gunther for The New York Times An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Young-Min Kwon, center, removed a metal hip from a patient at Massachusetts General Hospital. By BARRY MEIER Published: September 30, 2011

For many folks, orthopedic surgery and joint replacement have been godsends.  Knee and hip problems are common in overweight and obese people.  My right knee bothers me some, after years of carrying excess weight, although it’s gotten a good bit better since I lost weight.

The growth of orthopedic surgery and joint replacement have been fueled both by the growing size of Americans and improved technology.  But hip replacements aren’t without risk.  As the NY Times reports, metal and plastic hips may last 15 years – some folks will live long enough to need them replaced when they wear out.

Now comes news that newer metal-on-metal hips may fail earlier and have more complications.

Similar scenes are playing out at hospitals nationwide as a growing number of patients seek to have faulty metal-on-metal artificial hips removed and replaced. More than a decade ago, some researchers had warned that the hips shed tiny pieces of metallic debris that posed potential health threats to patients. But those warnings were not heeded, and now doctors and patients face a growing public health problem as one of the country’s biggest medical device failures unfolds.

As an anesthesiologist, I know well that a 2nd operation in the same location is always more complicated.  So, while a joint replacement can drastically improve quality of life (and lead to more activity leading to more weight loss) for many, ideally one should try to lose weight to prevent such problems – even 10 lbs can help!

Dr John Ellis MD

Board-certified anesthesiologist, with expertise in cardiovascular anesthesia and the implications of obesity and sleep apnea in anesthesia. See vascularanesthesia.com for professional information. Dr. Ellis has used the strategies in here to: (1) lose 120 lbs over 18 months, (2) stop all antihypertensive medicines, and (3) no longer need CPAP treatment for sleep apnea.

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