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Bones and joints

Bone and joint problems: the good news is set to get better


Tim Wilton

President, British Orthopaedic Association

Medical treatment for bone and joint problems is transforming lives and is set to improve in future, says Mr Tim Wilton, President of the British Orthopaedic Association.

Orthopaedic surgery has come a long way. Hip and knee replacements are two of the most successful and cost effective treatments in the world. By restoring patients’ mobility they have transformed millions of lives, and the procedures pay for themselves.

A hip replacement costs the NHS an average of £5,000, but it typically lasts 15 years, which works out at £6.50 a week – much the same cost as the painkillers the patient would otherwise need. Improved mobility means more productive lives, and less need for NHS and social care.

Patients also benefit from world-beating data. The National Joint Registry of England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the world’s largest – gathers details of every joint replacement.  The Orthopaedic Data Evaluation Panel uses it to assess the performance of hip implants and knee prostheses, helping surgeons select those with the best outcomes for individual patients.

Patients are also being safeguarded by the Beyond Compliance Advisory Group, which monitors the performance of new brands of hip and knee replacements to spot potential problems before they appear in National Joint Registry data.

In sports surgery, shoulder reconstruction is now becoming more common, and research has shown that specific types of training can reduce the rising number of sports injuries, especially among women.

For older patients new techniques for modifying bones that rub on muscles are reducing shoulder pain and work is going on to tackle the increase in osteoporosis.

But patients can do their bit to help their bones and joints too. Maintaining moderate levels of exercise, a varied diet including dairy products and protein, and if necessary taking vitamin D supplements, will help keep bones and joints in good condition.

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