Anniversary of the hip replacement in Wigan that transformed millions of lives

The 60th anniversary of the hip replacement in Wigan that has transformed millions of lives worldwide since its inception in 1962 will be celebrated next week.

The surgery at Wrightington Hospital put its creator Sir John Charnley and the small hospital on the northern edge of the borough on the map.

Prof Charnley’s work and sheer dedicated genius catapulted the then small Wrightington Hospital onto the world stage as an international centre of excellence.

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But the hip replacement as we know it was almost never made, as Charnley’s search for the right design and suitable materials foundered several times before being successful.

Professor John Charnley in university gown
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Now, the trust created in his name to fund research, education and training into orthopaedics is celebrating the remarkable man and his pioneering, influential work.

The hospital where Charnley and his team created and carried out hip replacements has continued to push forward surgical barriers, investing in AI and remaining at the forefront of innovation and research with developments in orthopaedic surgery.

Wrightington Hospital is now a centre of excellence for all types of joint replacement carried out in 2022.

Successful two component hip joint

In 1962, the number of hip replacements there was 265, carried out in just one operating theatre. In 2022, that figure is already over 3,500 in 10 operating theatres providing joint replacements including knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand.

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Charnley was already a ground-breaking, Manchester-based consultant in the field of trauma and fractures when, one day, he examined a patient who had been fitted with a replacement hip joint made from acrylic plastic. The hip squeaked so loudly that the man’s wife avoided being in the same room with him.

Intrigued by the problem, Charnley put all his efforts into creating a better hip joint replacement, one that moved easily and successfully.

After several failures, he designed a two-component joint made of metal and plastic that provided the blueprint for all others since.

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Martyn Porter, chairman of the Sir John Charnley Trust, said: “Charnley was simply a genius – immensely skilled, totally determined and very organised. He revolutionised his field with one of the greatest surgical innovations of the century and we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”