My life’s work: Mr Hugh Apthorp, Consultant Hip Surgeon at The Lister Hospital, tells us about his work

My life’s work: Mr Hugh Apthorp, Consultant Hip Surgeon at The Lister Hospital, tells us about his work


Tell us a little about yourself

I qualified at Barts in 1987 and have been a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon for 18 years. I specialise only in hip surgery and particular minimally invasive hip replacements, and even though I’ve been doing it all this time I still love coming to work every day.

I do around 600 hip replacements per year (probably the most in the UK) and have done over 6,000 in my career – which has kept me busy! But it means I can use my experience to offer patients the best kind of surgery for their particular circumstance.

How has hip replacement surgery changed during your career?

When I started doing hip replacement surgery it was normal for patients to spend up to nine days in hospital before they felt well enough to go home. I pioneered the UK’s first nationally recognised rapid recovery programme, and most hospitals now use these principles in the management of their joint replacements.

I looked at the whole patient pathway, utilised new surgical techniques and adopted a multidisciplinary team working approach. This allows patients to experience less pain, bleeding and radically improve their rate of recovery. Patients can normally recover sufficiently quickly that they can comfortably go home after only two days– if they want to of course!

How did that work in practice?

I like to think of the hip replacement team in the same way as a Formula 1 pit crew. It’s about working as a team and getting every detail right first time. By making lots of little changes we found we could make a big difference to patients. For example, training them to use crutches before their operation, so they felt confident afterwards, or working with the anaesthetists to try different types of anaesthetic which allowed the patients to be up and walking on the same day.

Was that hard to achieve?

I think it was all about bringing the clinical team into the process early on, so that everyone understood what we were trying to achieve. We also needed to change the expectations of the patients and their families and make sure that patients felt confident to get started with physio straight away. I’ve worked with some amazing teams in my career and we are lucky at The Lister Hospital to have some of the finest anaesthetists, nurses and physiotherapists in the country.

Have you seen increasing demand for hip replacements during your career?

Absolutely. We are an ageing population, so that is to be expected. But increasingly I have patients who want to get back to activities such as kickboxing, surfing and living life to the full. People aren’t content to slow down and live with the pain, which can be extremely debilitating. In the words of one 101 year old patient, “I have things I need to do!”

What advice would you give to someone who thinks they might need a hip replacement?

To come and see me! Don’t suffer in silence. Hip pain can often be resolved with simple measures avoiding surgery, however if necessary a hip replacement really is a life changing procedure. In most cases patients will have a normal hip for the rest of their lives.

Tell us about your typical day at The Lister Hospital

At typical day at The Lister starts with consultations with six or seven patients in my clinic, and then I’ll be in the operating theatre in the afternoon. I visit all of my patients on the ward before going home and I’ll come and visit them again the next morning, even if it’s a Saturday. It’s great to see how they are getting on and it’s not unusual for my patients to say ‘you have changed my life’ and that’s a real privilege. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.

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