Dr Nigel Price: Why I went to France for my hip op

'You're doing what?' My stunned partners exclaimed at the weekly practice meeting in April, as a light shower began to drum against the freshly cleaned windows of my consulting room.

I stood my ground. I was prepared.

'I've decided to have my total hip replacement operation in France.'

'But why on earth would you want to do that?'

Originally I had planned to tee up my surgery at my local NHS hospital. However, a brief chat with a colleague over coffee one morning got me pondering. Before you could say 'mal a la hanche', I was on a voyage of discovery, surfing the net, thirsty for knowledge.

Coincidentally, it was surfing that got me started on all this. I'd been riding ocean waves for some 20 years and had lately become incapable of popping up on my board, due to my worn-out old hip joint.

My research revealed two approaches to total hip replacement - anterior and posterior. The latter is preferred in almost all UK centres, whereas the French prefer the former. Perceived wisdom in the UK suggests there is no difference in outcomes. However, the anterior operation, also known as minimally invasive surgery, takes an hour longer.

Unlike the posterior technique, the skin incision is small and involves no division of the muscles and soft tissues supporting the joint, thus helping you get back on your feet nice and quickly.

So it had to be anterior. In the UK, generally you would have to choose between buying a new family car or having the anterior operation, whereas in France, it's less than a third of the price.

Before I knew it, I was being admitted to the St Roch Clinic in Toulon, in southern France.

I'd hardly had time to unpack my surgical stockings when the nurse announced that she needed to shave me.

I quickly realised it wasn't my sideburns she wanted to tidy up. As I lay back, I noticed the World Cup was on the TV. So here I am watching the World Cup from Rio and I'm having a Brazilian.

Now I'm home and a week post-op. I'm delighted with how everything went and looking forward to popping up on my trusty surfboard again soon.

Dr Price is a GP in Dorset. If you are interested in writing for GP, please email neil.durham@haymarket.com

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