April 2004 Bulletin

Orthopaedic Research Society marks 50 years of changing patients' lives

By Jeannie Glickson

For 50 years, the Orthopaedic Research Society (ORS) has promoted orthopaedic research that benefits the lives of patients and enhances musculoskeletal care. Research led to such treatments as total hip replacement and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, and contributed to advances in prosthetic design and diagnosing and treating osteoporosis. At a press briefing held March 12 in San Francisco marking the ORS Golden Anniversary, Society members highlighted the ways that research has helped enhance orthopaedic treatment and improve the quality of care.

“Without the orthopaedic research that has been conducted over the last 50 years, treatments that are now considered usual would have otherwise been unavailable, and patients' quality of life would not be what it is today,” said Scott Boden, MD, an ORS member, orthopaedic surgeon and director of The Emory Orthopaedics and Spine Center in Atlanta.

The THR example
Total hip replacement (THR) is an example of a treatment that has developed substantially over the past 50 years, thanks to research. In the early 1960s, THRs were only beginning to be performed, there were few good motion-preserving options and there were high rates of infection in patients.
Research helped make key advances, such as using aseptic techniques, prophylactic antibiotics and specialized operating rooms to prevent infection. Advances in prosthetic design helped to maximize the function, stability and longevity of the implant, and material choices for implants have improved.

ACL research
Another common procedure, especially among athletes and other physically active people, is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Before research began in this area, the ACL was poorly understood, and the problem was often undiagnosed. Fifty years ago, the patient diagnosed with an ACL ailment could not expect to return to activity.

Current research is focusing on preventing this injury and understanding why it affects women more than men. Future treatments may include more tissue engineering of ligament replacement graft or improved biologic incorporation and healing of donor grafts.

Other advances
Other advances that have developed over ORS' 50 years include treatment for low back pain and spinal stenosis, which affect 80 percent of all individuals at some point in their lives. Fifty years ago, a spinal fusion meant a two-week hospital stay, a body cast or brace for months, and a minimum of six months away from normal activities. Today, some spinal fusion techniques can be done on an outpatient basis.

Although the use of bone morphogenetic protein in spinal fusion is not its primary use, the discovery that it can be used as a material for spinal fusion has transformed patients' recovery to one that is less painful and offers near certain healing.

The development of bone density assessments can identify those at risk for osteoporosis, so that they can receive preventive care.

Orthopaedic research also has had an impact on the lives of children, most notably through research on Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare but devastating bone cancer that usually occurs in children and young adults. Limb salvage procedures developed over the past 50 years enable the surgeon to remove the cancer without amputating the affected limb. Chemotherapy treatments for this disease have increased survival rates from 5 percent to 80 percent.

The 1,946-member ORS is dedicated to the advancement of orthopaedic research. It carries out this mission through education in research, dissemination of research knowledge and advocacy for increasing awareness of the importance and impact of such research on orthopaedic patients and the public.


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