MADISON, Wis. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- More than 150,000 people will have a hip replacement this year, but the implants typically only last between 15 and 20 years. Engineers have developed a new technique that could help patients find a better fit. The inspiration came from a masterpiece made of stone.
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Just watching Paul Giles work out is exhausting. This 40-year-old is making huge strides considering he recently had hip resurfacing surgery.
"It was very painful," he told Ivanhoe. "No running. No bike riding."
Giles is part of a growing number of middle aged patients who have hip implants or hip replacements. The problem -- the parts wear out after about 15 years.
"It's a lot of implants that have to be reworked because they get loose and they are no longer stable in the bone," Michael Freytag, a mechanical engineer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained.
Freytag is stepping back in time hoping to improve the future of implants.
Using Michael Angelo's David as a model, researchers tested out their new Scan and Solve software. They scan a 3-D image of the statue and calculate the stress it endures on a daily basis. The formula they created tells them where the statue is most likely to crack and helps find a solution to ease the strain.
"Tilt him back a little bit [and] you could improve the stress situation in his ankles," Freytag demonstrated.
Researchers hope the same concept helps doctors predict how human bones react under stress.
"The ultimate goal would be able to simulate the effect of maybe putting an implant into a bone, sort of like individualized medicine, so you can choose or identify for a particular patient what implant might be best for them," Freytag explained.
The technology could also be used to point out design flaws in buildings and structures.
"If we have an earthquake of whatever magnitude, it's going to break and you better do something about that," Freytag said.
So far, Gile's hip is holding up, but a better formula for implants could keep him twisting, turning and bending for a lifetime.
Engineers say one day they may be able to simulate the stress of aging on bones, which could predict which people will suffer from osteoporosis and help them prevent it.
The American Society of Civil Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.