Surgical Successes: The Eicher Hip Implant

This blog is part of the series entitled Surgical Successes. This series will highlight various surgical procedures that are currently being performed at Eskenazi Health. For this series entry, it is time to take a step back in time and look at one of the more influential surgeries performed in the history of Eskenazi Health and the man behind it: Dr. Palmer Eicher and the Eicher Hip Implant.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Agency for Health care research and Quality, more than 300,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States.  While the earliest recorded attempts at hip replacement were carried out in Germany in 1891 by Themistocles Gluck, it would take another 87 years before English surgeon Sir John Charnley created the modern low friction arthroplasty technique. However, the technique developed by Charnley wouldn’t be possible without the help of Dr. Palmer Eicher. Dr. Eicher’s design of the modern day intramedullary stemmed replacement for the head of the femur bone became the forerunner of the femoral component of the universally used total hip reconstruction.

Born, raised and educated as a Hoosier, Dr. Eicher received his medical degree from Indiana University in 1932 and completed his internship at Indianapolis City Hospital, now Eskenazi Health. After serving a tour of duty in the Pacific during World War II as a member of the United States Army Medical Corp, Dr. Eicher found a passion for orthopaedic medicine, specifically surgery of the hip. After completing a residency at the Oklahoma Bone and Joint Hospital in Oklahoma City, Dr. Eicher came home to Indiana in 1948, where he joined the staff of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Shortly after his homecoming, Dr. Eicher put his passion for hip surgery into research and partnered with Zimmer Inc. to begin development of a hip prosthesis. After a year of research and development, Dr. Eicher, in cooperation with Zimmer Inc., developed the Eicher Hip Implant. On June 14, 1950 he implanted his newly created femur-head prosthesis in his patient, Sophia T. Hill at Indianapolis General Hospital. Successes

The implant created by Dr. Eicher modernized how the femur prosthetic would look, attach to the femur and engage with the hip socket. The prosthetic, created by Dr. Eicher and manufactured by Zimmer Inc., was the first implant prosthesis to have a smooth head, stem and neck collar. In a report titled “Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research”, Dr. Alfred Swanson, a medical resident who worked with Dr. Eicher on the prosthesis, noted that Dr. Eicher believed these small changes would make it easier for the bone and surrounding muscle tissue to accept and lead to fewer rejections.

Additionally, by creating the prosthesis from a single stock of stainless steel, Dr. Eicher and Zimmer Inc. created a stronger prosthesis which could handle more stress. Finally, by smoothing the prosthesis’s head and neck and introducing a collar, Dr. Eicher found that the stresses created by outside forces were appropriately distributed. These forces included things such as putting weigh on the affected hip by standing or moving the hip through activities such as walking. In short, the implant prosthesis developed by Dr. Eicher was the most stable of its time.

The femur prosthesis created and used by Dr. Eicher has been considered the forerunner of the present day femoral component used in a total hip arthroplasty, or total hip replacement. The successors to his hip implant are currently being used in the total joint replacement program at Eskenazi Health. To learn more about this program please visit:

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