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An Illustrated History of Hip Joint Surgery: from Hippocrates to Charnley

John Kirkup. Bone & Joint 2014. pp. 412. £25.00.

Paperback, 234 mm x 156 mm, 277 b&w illustrations.

Orthopaedic surgeon and medical historian John Kirkup has produced a fascinating account of the history of hip surgery, as the book is subtitled, from ‘Hippocrates to Charnley’ though he goes beyond Charnley and quotes results published as recently as 2011, and one ponders where history ends and the present begins.

Maybe this is actually a textbook bringing us right into the present?

Kirkup quotes David Dandy, “Unless we look back more than a single professional lifetime, each generation will make the same mistakes…”.

Despite the availability of information online, it is still difficult for the practicing surgeon, or amateur historian, to trace information beyond a few decades. This book helps hip surgeons, at least.

As an experienced surgeon, who trained with McKee and Charnley, Kirkup has great insight into the development of total hip replacement – most likely the section of most general interest – and this is well-written – though I would have enjoyed even more detail.

The chapter on the development of radiology, and the revelation of the hip, by radiologist Jean Guy is excellent.

The concluding chapter ‘Gains, losses and overlooked opportunities related to hip surgery’ is thought provoking. Today, would we ignore a development as revolutionary as thermal sterilization for 15 years? Would we take nearly 50 years to introduce pasteurisation  of milk? Maybe we would. Maybe we are.

The standard of production is high, though some text-heavy images of books and papers are too small to read easily, and the whole book would benefit from being bigger, with the illustrations given more space, though I imagine this would make it more expensive – it is probably more important for people to read this book than to admire it.

I would also have enjoyed some biographical information about the surgeons – Kirkup mostly identifies them by their surname and first initial, and rarely mentions their institutions or appointments.

I look forward to a second edition perhaps with specialist contributors expanding on, for example “Why the McKee-Farrar ‘failed’ while the BHR is successful?” or, in addition to a low-priced edition - a big, glossy coffee table edition….

Reviewed by Jason Brockwell, Hip Surgeon


Order An Illustrated History of Hip Joint Surgery from The British Editorial Society of Bone & Joint Surgery today at