A new procedure called subchondroplasty, currently being performed at Ohio State University’s Wexler Medical Center, is allowing patients the opportunity for hip repair without the need for a total hip replacement. Though it’s still early, these advancements may mitigate side effects by offering a hip replacement alternative. 

This year, much like previous years, more than 300,000 Americans will undergo hip replacement surgery due to wear-and-tear, rheumatoid arthritis, or hip joint deformation and collapse. Growing instances of such complications have now affected some as young as 30 years old.

The subchondroplasty procedure is proclaimed by advocates to be easier and less invasive than traditional hip replacement. The shorter recovery time would also be attractive to patients who only need minor upkeep rather than a total hip replacement.

In performing a subchondroplasty, the surgeon injects the hip joint with a compounded bone substitute, which then hardens in the weakened bone, leading to regeneration and eventual replacement with new bone.

What hasn’t changed are the risks involved with hip surgery, including:

  • Blood clots forming in veins post-surgery
  • Infection at the site of incision
  • Potential fracture of healthy hip joint during surgery
  • Hip dislocation a few months after surgery

There have not yet been any indications of long-term success yet with subchondroplasty, and surgeons at Wexler have performed around ten procedures. Much like traditional hip replacement surgery, revision hip surgery may be required, which would require a hospital stay of up to five days.

Recovery from any form of hip surgery, even with a hip replacement alternative, may not always go smoothly. Expect to spend three to four days a week in physical therapy for months, give up driving for at least three to six weeks, and find someone to assist you at home four to five days per week.

Wexler orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kelton Vasileff said, “There’s not a lot of procedures out there that help to regenerate the bone quite like subchondroplasty does, so this helps to fill a gap in our treatment options for patients who have cartilage damage, labral tears or advanced degenerative changes in their hips.”