Dr. Joshua Jacobs, an orthopedic surgeon, displays a model of a cementless hip replacement in 2014. M. Spencer Green/AP
It all began with a single X-ray. It was 1974, and surgeons had been doing total hip replacements for a dozen years. “Total hip replacement is an absolutely magnificent operation,” says Dr. William H. Harris, “and we were able to do remarkable things to restore mobility and relief of pain and the joy of life to countless individuals.” As chief of Massachusetts General Hospital’s joint replacement surgery service, Harris was sent a mystifying patient, a prominent lawyer from San Francisco whose hip replacement had gone badly awry.
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