A feat of human endurance for the future of Antarctica

Robert Swan is a world-famous Polar Explorer, Conservationist, Environmentalist and Inspirational Speaker. He is the first person in history to ever walk to both the North and South Poles. This December Rob is skiing to the South Pole to raise awareness around climate change and Antarctica. This incredible feat of human courage and commitment is even more impressive as Rob had a total hip replacement last year.

Rob developed pain and was diagnosed with an arthritic hip in his 50s, and by his early 60s he was in too much pain to continue his dream of skiing to the South Pole. He tried more conventional rehabilitation and even stem cell therapy, but nothing worked. His GP referred him to Fortius ‘looking for the most robust hip possible to continue his adventures.’

Simon Bridle is a very experienced orthopaedic hip surgeon, he knew that there was only one option to help Rob achieve what he wanted - a hip replacement operation. ‘A hip replacement if successful should help you be pain free and back to day to day function, but higher-level function is less predictable. It’s very variable on what you can achieve, it depends hugely on self-motivation, commitment and existing physical condition’

And so it was agreed that Robert would have a new hip! He underwent a Mako robotic-assisted hip replacement at the Fortius Joint Replacement Centre in late summer 2018.

Simon says ‘with a Mako we can achieve far more accurate and reliable positioning of the hip replacement components, which is surprisingly inaccurate with conventional manual techniques.  This means that the leg length is almost guaranteed to be correct and the hip less likely to dislocate. Accurate component positioning enables the surgeon to reproduce the patient’s own normal anatomy, so the hip is more like to feel and function normally and it is less likely that the wear rate, which determines long term failure, will be lower so the hip will last longer.

It is important to explain that all surgery has risks and complications, which can compromise results.

At the end of the day, Rob understood that surgery was the only prospect he had to perform this trek.

Simon talks about the pressure he felt as a surgeon to ensure that the operation was a success,

‘The future direction his life will take is in my hands. Even after doing thousands of hip replacements, you take it in your stride but it is something you think about. He is such an inspiring man, it was a lot of pressure and I felt very responsible’

Rob’s surgery was deemed a great success, Simon was able to reproduce Rob’s normal hip biomechanics using the Mako robot to assist accurate implantation of the components.  He has worked extremely hard on his rehabilitation and he now has a pain free hip and feels that essentially his new hip allows him to move as if it were his own.

As well as his hip, Rob has had problems with early arthritis in his knee.  Fortius continued supporting Rob with optimising his condition for the expedition, including injections into his knee, which have helped to make his knee pain free to continue with his training and preparation.

Robert set off for the South Pole on the 1st December.

You can follow his journey at https://www.2041foundation.org/

I have just returned from ten days, pulling sledges in the Arctic. The hip is SO strong and feels great. I even could sleep on that side, on icy ground. The rest of me needs hard work but I am on with that! Thanks for the support. We head South in November. All is great.