Cuba generalizes hip replacement implant

Campaign News | Saturday, 14 October 2006

Hip designed by Cuban and made in France

? The RALCA model, designed by Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras, director of the Frank País International Orthopedic Science Complex, and manufactured by the French firm PROSTEEL is now fully in use

BY LILLIAM RIERA - Granma International staff writer -

“A year and a half ago, I was in a wheel chair. Now, a week after my surgery, I can stand up and walk,” says Dolores Marcheco, who cannot contain her excitement. She received a hip replacement at the Frank País International Orthopedic Science Complex in Havana as part of a program for this technique that has been developed in Cuba over the last seven years.

And to demonstrate that she is not exaggerating, the 77-year-old woman got up from her bed, with help from her son, Armando Hernández, and took a few steps around the hospital ward using a walker, so that these two reporters from Granma International could see that she felt “perfectly well,” as she affirms.


Dolores will soon be discharged from the hospital and return to her home in Holguín province in eastern Cuba. The physician who operated on her, Dr. Aurelio Rodríguez Rodríguez, deputy director of surgery at the hospital, affirms that her evolution has been “excellent” in spite of the complexity of the procedure, which is free in Cuba, but costs from $25,000 to $40,000 elsewhere.

In a conversation with Granma International the center’s director, Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambras, emphasizes that the prestigious institution was the first in Latin America to perform a hip replacement operation, in 1969. The prosthesis currently costs from $1,800 to $3,000.

In Cuba, the RALCA model is used, designed by Dr. Alvarez Cambras and manufactured by the French company PROSTEEL. This model now exists in two versions and continues to be improved.

The prostheses are made of metal and polyethylene covered with hydroxyapatite - the main mineral component of bone -, obtained for this use from coral and also synthetically in the laboratory. It is produced at the National Scientific Research Center, part of the west Havana scientific complex.

In the case of RALCA 2, there are three types: the non-hardened hip prosthesis, used for young people with strong bones; the hardened one, which is used for older people with osteoporosis or bone deficiency; and the “spare” one, which is used for patients whose bodies did not assimilate one of the others.


Alvarez Cambras, who is also a professor, explains that from 2007, annual hip replacements in the country will number about 560 non-hardened, 850 hardened, and approximately 40 “spares,” for a total of almost 1,500 of these operations.

He explained that currently, operations for implants with the hardened prostheses are taking place in all of Cuba’s provincial hospitals, as well as the Hermanos Ameijeiras, Cira García and CIMEQ in Havana. Surgery using the non-hardened models has spread to Santiago de Cuba and Holguín, in the east, and Villa Clara and Cienfuegos, in central Cuba, and will begin being used in the remaining provinces next year.

The renowned specialist noted that the increase in life expectancy in Cuba has increased the probability of the need for hip replacements in older adults.

When asked about knee replacements in the country, he said that the first was performed in 1972, in the hospital he directs, and continued on a sporadic basis until five years ago, when a new model was introduced (KALISTE), manufactured by the French company IMPLANT INDUSTRIE, and which Cuba purchases for about $1,300.

Alvarez Cambras noted that to date this year, it has been used in Santiago de Cuba, Camagüey, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara. In 2007, it will be used nationwide.

The Frank País International Orthopedic Science Complex, just 12 kilometers from downtown Havana, is recognized throughout the world for its work in orthopedic surgery, traumatology and rehabilitation.

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