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Issue Date:- 8 September 2008

 New blood test to detect loosening of artificial joints

AN orthopaedic research team in Liverpool are hoping to come up with a brand new way of detecting when joint replacements are about to come loose, the most common reason for an artificial joint to fail.

The University of Liverpool team aim to develop and evaluate a simple blood test which would give warning of a problem developing before bone damage was visible on x-ray.

More than 150,000 joint replacement operations are performed every year in the UK, mostly of the hip and knee, with 10% failing and having to be replaced (known as revision surgery) within 10 years.

The new 3-year project, which is funded by a £187,000 grant from the Arthritis Research Campaign, could lead to many benefits, according to principal investigator, Simon Frostick, Professor of Orthopaedics at the University’s Musculoskeletal Sciences Research Group.  “For doctors, a good test to detect the likelihood of joint failure would allow easier and cheaper monitoring, without the need for expensive x-rays.   It would also enable surgeons to focus on patients at risk of their joint becoming loose.  For patients it would mean better monitoring without hospital visit and x-rays, just a GP visit and blood test.  For researchers and manufacturers of implants it would be invaluable, as new implants could be monitored more closely, and problems and improvements identified more quickly.  And for scientists it would mean that non-surgical treatments to stop the loosening process before bone damage could be developed and monitored.”

Loosening of artificial joints is caused when plastic and metal fragments from the implant slowly wear away, causing inflammation and leading to the bone around the joint becoming unstable.

To enable them to find out if the blood test is effective – using a marker taken from blood cells entering the tissue near the particles of metal and plastic – the Liverpool team will sample the blood of 250 people in three different patients groups.  They are patients just before their first joint replacement, patients who have had an implant within five years, who have had no problems, and patients with implants which are problematic.  All groups will be followed for the duration of the study.

“In a pilot study we found that when patients had a good, stable implant, they had low levels of the marker in their blood, but when it was loosening, the levels were much higher.  We think this marker hits the spot, but we have to do this study to prove whether it is useful in a clinical setting.” said another member of the research team, Mr David Miller, a consultant orthopaedic hip surgeon at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals.

Consumer Chair Wins Backing On EU Wide Missing Child Hotline

EURO MP and Chair of the European Parliament's Consumer Protection Committee, Arlene McCarthy will this week get backing for compulsory provision of the 116000 Missing Child Hotline across all EU countries.

Arlene said:- “With 7'500 children going missing in the UK and Belgium alone last year, the missing child hotline is a priority for Europe.  Yet 18 months after its introduction as a Europe-wide number only seven member states have established the 116000 hotline service.

The voluntary approach is not working and that is why I have proposed incorporating the 116000 number into law, establishing a right across all 27 EU Member States for citizens to access the missing child hotline.

I welcome the support this proposal is receiving in the European Parliament and with their backing I will push the European Commission and the national governments to accept this amendment to the law.

Statistics on missing children across Europe show that this is an area where Europe can and must act to help identify, track down and recover missing children.

The 1st 24 hours are crucial to safely recovering missing children.  Ensuring that we have a common helpline number in all Member States will help speed up the vital response by national authorities wherever a child goes missing as well as in neighbouring countries.”

The report prepared by the Consumer Protection Committee contains proposals to update EU law on telecoms users' rights.  It will be debated by Parliament Tuesday and in addition to the 116000 proposal it contains measures to enhance consumer rights in the telecoms market, strengthen data protection rules, ensure equal access for disabled users and improve the EU wide 112 emergency number.  Arlene said:- "The telecoms market is increasingly a European market, and this legislation must ensure consumers across Europe are protected - both in commercial transactions and in the use of their data.  We must also ensure all citizens are treated equally, which is why the Parliament's proposals will enhance access for disabled users to all forms of electronic communication.  As people increasingly travel in Europe they also face the risk of an emergency developing abroad.  This is why we have an EU wide 112 emergency number.  This law will strengthen the provision of that number, including the addition of a caller location function to help those who are in distress."

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