A Success for Thai Medical Doctors! Producing Hip Prosthesis for the First Time – Enabling the Aged to Walk Again and Enjoy a Better Quality of Life

Hip Prosthesis

Chula’s team from the Faculties of Medicine and Engineering has successfully developed Thailand’s first hip prosthesis to treat senior citizens with broken hips to recover fast and at a lower cost.  The team is hoping to produce other prostheses like knee and other joints to improve the quality of life of seniors in our aging society.

Broken hip joints are a common problem that reduces the quality of life of our seniors many of whom are unable to walk, become dependent on others, and face other forms of health problems.  The number of seniors faced with broken hip joints in Thailand is estimated as many as 8,000 a year and shows a tendency of increasing every year — a reflection in direct proportion with the increasing number of the aging population.   

specialist for the Prosthetic Surgery of Knee and Hip Joints Unit
Associate Professor Vajara Wilairat, M.D.

Associate Professor Vajara Wilairat, M.D., a specialist for the Prosthetic Surgery of Knee and Hip Joints Unit, Orthopaedics Division, King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, the Red Cross Society of Thailand described the problem of broken hips prevalent among the aged as “the hip bones usually deteriorate with age and most seniors suffer from osteoporosis or osteopenia, and once they lose their balance it becomes more likely for them to fall.  The hip is usually easier to get broken in people of this age group than younger persons and if they do not get immediate medical attention this can result in the inability to walk.  Other problems could then ensue such as urinary tract infection and bedsores.  Many will end up becoming bedridden and can succumb to pneumonia which finally leads to death.   

In the past, Thailand has imported prosthetic hips from abroad most of which are costly and sometimes come in sizes that are not compatible with the bones of Thai patients receiving the surgery.   For this reason, Assoc. Prof. Vajara M.D. initiated the Prosthetic Hip Development Project in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, and have successfully produced prosthetics and orthopedic implants for the first time in Thailand.   

Assoc. Prof. Vajara expressed his “wish that senior citizens may be able to avail of hip replacement surgery so they can walk and enjoy their daily living as close as possible to their normal life” which led to his efforts to work for the past ten years on this project.  For that, he has been rewarded with the Best Inventions Award for 2020 (Excellent level) from the National Research Council of Thailand.    

Prosthetic hip parts
Prosthetic hip parts

Thai production of hip prosthesis meets standards of safety

Assoc. Prof. Vajara enumerated how the materials for the hip prosthesis that are Cobalt, Chromium, and Titanium have been tested to determine their compatibility with human tissue, corrosion, the resistance of the metal, non-toxicity at the cell level, or the metal’s potential to cause skin allergies.  It has been granted the ISO 10993 industrial standard and has been tested for durability and usage according to ISO 7206.  

“The innovation has been through vigorous testing as our primary concern is the safety of our patients.  The hip prosthesis can be used and will not cause any danger to the human body.  It can also be used as a reference to the physical structure of each individual this means that the prosthesis is very similar to the actual hip of the patient.”

An x-ray image showing the prosthesis hip once it has been attached
An x-ray image showing the prosthesis hip once it has been attached

Improved quality of life

Aside from the testing of the various safety standards, Assoc. Prof. Vajara, M.D. also tested the capacity of the prosthesis hip on senior patients who have suffered a broken hip from an accident.  The test was conducted through a special program offering hip replacement surgeries to 30 seniors in 3 hospitals – King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, Surin Provincial Hospital, and Somdej Na Sriracha Hospital each operating on 10 patients.  The requirements were that each person participating in the project had to be 75 years and above, not bedridden, with no serious medical conditions, not suffering from infectious or brain diseases, able to comprehend and communicate effectively as well as to cooperate well with the physician.  

Up until now, there have been 8 patients who have undergone this surgery at King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, all of which have shown satisfactory results for the treatment received.  

“The patients have taken only a couple of days to recover.  This has lessened the length of their hospital stay, and the burden on their family. Most importantly, it has also reduced the death rate of patients from various types of infections.  Patients can return to their normal life sooner.  They can walk and perform their daily activities as well as they did before their surgery.”   

Aside from monitoring their post-operation health as normally required such as infections or blood clots, patients are supposed to return for regular follow-ups each year to test the level of metals in their bodies to keep it within the safe limit.  

the prosthesis hip tested on senior patients
A post-operation patient

A Thai Innovation that responds to the questions of an aging society

Assoc. Prof. Vajara places great emphasis on the fact that Thais are now able to develop a technology to produce prosthesis hips that have reduced the number of imports from abroad.  Soon, this can be further developed for other forms of physical implants.  Currently, the project is working in collaboration with the Faculty of Engineering to produce total hip arthroplasty for the pelvic and thigh bones aimed at patients with hip arthrosis. Plans are also underway to develop the knee prosthesis project since this ailment is also increasing in our aging society.   

Patients with broken hip joints can contact the Arthritis and Bone Section of King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital 24 hours a day or email: orthochula@gmail.com or Tel: +662 256 4230

Chula is the place to discover one’s true individuality and the years I spent here were most enjoyable.

Rossukhon Kongket Alumni, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University

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