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Making $ billions and helping millions with Charnley's invention

When I read in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that two American companies had a combined market value of $55 billion from selling hip and knee implants, I couldn't help thinking of John Charnley who made these life-changing operations possible.

As we mention in the Ingenious Timeline (scroll down), Charnley was a doctor so determined to relieving his patients' pain that he dedicated his life to orthopaedic science and a surgical breakthrough. Working in the 1950s he developed the implant that would replace a crippled hip bone and socket, surgical techniques to insert the implant, and the sterile clean air enclosure, total body exhaust suits and instrument tray system essential to controlling infection. After repeated trials, his hip replacement surgery became reality in 1962. Surgeons from all over the world travelled to his hospital in Wrightington to learn his low-friction hip replacement techniques.

John Charnley is not mentioned in the Journal article, but he contributed immeasurably to the relief of pain and to the mobility of people dear to us, and to the bottom line of these companies. Growing demand makes their value likely to rise.

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