By: 19 December 2013

Surgeon wins prestigious fellowship for his work to improve the failure rate of artificial hip and knee joints and increase their lifespan


As reported by Hispanic Business, Dr Phil Heaton, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Pilgrim Hospital in Lincolnshire and Visiting Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, has won a British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) travelling fellowship for his pioneering work. Dr Heaton collaborates with a specialist in orthopaedic biomechanics, Professor Jie Tong, from the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Together they are working on ways to improve the overall success of artificial hip and knee replacements.

Artificial hip and knee joints currently have a lifespan of just 10-15 years, but people are now having the operation earlier, with some patients in their late twenties and early thirties. By simulating a joint in the laboratory, Dr Heaton and Professor Tong have been looking at how the joints behave, and why some joints will work better for longer.

One of their discoveries was that the angle at which the joints are inserted can have a huge impact on the success of an operation because it affects how well the artificial joint attaches to existing bone.

Dr Heaton said: “This kind of development is incredibly useful to surgeons like myself who want the best possible outcomes for their patients.

“What I do is help translate what’s being developed in the laboratory into real health benefits for patients. Collaborating with specialist researchers in my field has made me a far better surgeon.”

The team are also researching new and innovative materials that could be used in the future to provide better alternatives to the existing joints, currently made from metal and plastic. Materials that mimic the mature hip, such as biomaterials
ceramics and polymers, could form the joints of the future, Dr Heaton said.

“I would like to be part of the team that creates the first joint to last for 40 years or matches the lifespan of the patient.”

The fellowship will see Dr Heaton travelling for six weeks to countries including Austria, Switzerland and the USA to meet and work with fellow specialists, where he will visit other centres of excellence to gain knowledge, experience and different cultural perspectives within trauma and orthopaedic surgery.

These collaborations are what Dr Heaton is most looking forward to about his fellowship.

“For me the biggest prize is the opportunity to delve into the minds of people working in different countries and share our knowledge to develop common goals.”

Junior editor at Fintech Intel