The steel rod of the artificial hip had been slathered in antibiotic cement, an effort to ward off a nasty infection that had gone to the bone.
But when it had to be removed, the metal-and-plastic contraption was not disposed of as medical waste. Instead, it now sits on a shelf at Drexel University, alongside more than 7,000 artificial knees, hips, and other tokens of infirmity from around the country.
For Steven M. Kurtz, director of Drexel’s Implant Research Center, the unusual collection is an invaluable resource in his quest to make the technology better.
William M. Mihalko, a professor of orthopedics at the University of Tennessee, praised the Drexel effort, though he said a comprehensive national database would be even better.
“We could possibly avoid implant design variables that are problematic or raise the red flag about an issue sooner rather than later,” Mihalko said.