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Dr. William H. Harris Reflects on Developing a Cure for Periprosthetic Osteolysis (Part 1)

In This Article

  • William H. Harris, MD, who established the Harris Orthopaedics Laboratory in 1969 at Massachusetts General Hospital, identified major bone damage surrounding an implant after total hip arthroscopy (THA) as periprosthetic osteolysis
  • Osteolysis is now well known as the main condition resulting in the failure of hip implants
  • After identifying the root cause of implant failure, Dr. Harris began investigating solutions, which resulted in an improved plastic for the implant involving the cross-linking of polyethylene
  • Today THA ranks among one of the most effective surgeries with a 95% success rate after ten years

Over a million people have been diagnosed with periprosthetic osteolysis as the root cause of implant failure after total hip arthroscopy (THA). The disease was once a mystery that deeply concerned Massachusetts General Hospital orthopedic surgeon William H. Harris, MD, founder and director emeritus of the Harris Orthopaedics Laboratory, when he first witnessed the major bone damage surrounding hip implants characteristic of the condition.

Out of a desire to help his own patients who had developed the disease, Dr. Harris set out to investigate the origins of the bone destruction and formulate a possible cure. The result of decades of persistence, as well as the dedication of researchers and physicians, was the development of a new and improved plastic for the THA implant in the form of cross-linked polyethylene. Dr. Harris reflects on the impact of the discovery and cure for periprosthetic osteolysis in part one of an interview with the Oxford University Press.

1M
The number of patients impacted by periprosthetic osteolysis

95%
Success rate of THA after 10-year follow-up

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A 17-year follow-up study of patients with hip replacements made of HXLPE shows that use of HXLPE in prosthetic hips has reduced wear by 90% versus conventional polyethylene and has almost totally eliminated periprosthetic osteolysis.

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