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There have been evolutionary phases that have led to safe, pain-free and lasting results for millions, and now robotics is taking a front seat along with breakthrough research.

Joint Replacements Evolved To Life-Changing Procedures

Three surgeries became well-known as the most successful and life-changing procedures of the twentieth century: cataract operation, cardiac bypass and hip and knee replacement.

Because of arthritis and injuries, our joints tend to become irreversibly damaged, leaving us immobile and in pain. Several pioneers have led the way in how we create breakthrough discoveries that impact the quality of life for thousands of people. One such pioneer is Dr. Frank Gunston, a Manitoban who went from being an engineer to an orthopaedic surgeon. 

Joint replacement gives us freedom from pain and the ability to enjoy life. 

Today, we can replace many joints in the body. Hip and knee replacements are known to everyone, and it is our specialty at Concordia. 

The first ever orthopaedic prostheses and implants were found in Egyptian mummies over 3000 years ago. 

It was rudimentary, and surgical techniques needed more development. Surgery only became successful after the medical practitioners adopted the importance of hand washing and sterilization in the late 19th century. The advent of antibiotics further improved patient outcomes, and surgical procedures became normal.

Although ancient Mayans and Egyptians implanted shells and ivory as tooth implants, they were unaware that these materials are not friendly with our bodies. Bone pegs, Ivory rods, silver rods and copper wires were used to fix bones between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. Wooden balls were used in an attempt to replace the joints of the jawbone. These early implants failed, because these materials are not inert, and our body rejects them. They also don’t last long.

Titanium alloys were developed around World War II. Titanium is light, strong and especially friendly to bone. It quickly gained popularity in the field of prosthetic design. Further advances came along in the 1970s and 1980s. The articulating surfaces of prosthetic joints evolved after ceramics came into play. Ceramic balls and bearings rarely wear out, further increasing the longevity and robustness of joints. The fixation of these prostheses to bone was pioneered by Sir John Charnley, who used acrylic cement. 

Later, methods were devised to coat the prosthetic joints with “calcium hydroxyapatite” or titanium wire mesh, to make these implants more “bone-friendly”. Such prostheses literally “healed” to bone to become a permanent part of our body. 

Sir John Charnley is recognized as the founder of modern hip replacement and pioneered the procedure. He performed his first hip replacement surgery in 1962. The implant he used was a cemented total hip replacement, which fixed both the hip socket and the stem of the thighbone with acrylic cement. This became standard practice in the UK for over 40 years.  

His contributions to the field are hip replacement surgery methods, optimizing the surgery flows, and significantly decreasing infection rates. He transmitted his technique and knowledge to a broad audience of international surgeons through his teaching activities. Thus, his academic and scientific work was spread worldwide.

Manitoban Dr. Frank Guston designed the modern knee replacement after following his training by Sir John Charnley.

Our goal of orthopedic research at the Concordia Campus in Winnipeg is to continue pushing the boundaries of how medicine improves the lives of people suffering from joint pain, poor function and limited mobility.  

Professor Sir John Charnley (1911–1982) | Rheumatology | Oxford Academic (

John Charnley – Wikipedia

Biomedical Engineering (

Biomedical Publications (