In the business of bone donation, old hips are giving new life to people needing reconstructive surgery. More than 33,000 hip replacements are performed each year in Australia.
If the patient ticks the bone donation box, part of the hip is taken away to be processed and turned into bone grafts.
When a hip is replaced, the ball at the top of the hip joint, the femoral head, is removed and a plastic socket put in its place.
In New South Wales, just 600 out of 6,000 hip replacement patients last year agreed to become living donors. While the number remains low, it represents a steady increase.
Sharon Bryce from the Australian Tissue Donation Network said the majority of people are not aware of bone donation.
“You see bone from people in their 60s and 70s and 80s being used for example to transplant into children who are having spinal surgery,” Ms Bryce said.
Bernard Lamerton said the decision to become a living bone donor took no time at all to make.
“I just thought it was a given, I will certainly do it. I was happy to do it, I never gave it a second thought. I was always going to do it,” he said.
On the day he was told he needed a hip replacement, his surgeon, Professor Warwick Bruce, presented him with two other options.
“I told him he could help two to four other people by donating his femoral head, which would otherwise be thrown out,” Professor Bruce said.
Professor Warwick Bruce uses donated bone and tissue in a range of reconstructive procedures, from knee reconstructions through to children having spinal surgery to repair scoliosis or curvature of the spine.