IT is a risky operation that can take months to recover from.

But researchers in Southampton say they have discovered a “revolutionary”

method that could prevent many from having to undergo painful hip replacements.

Surgeons based at hospitals in the city have developed a stem cell treatment that could treat the common bone disease, osteonecrosis.

The illness can cause significant bone damage in the hip, when poor blood supply causes bone tissue to die.

At the moment, the main treatment for the condition is a total hip replacement – but city scientists say their new procedure could dispense with the need for that operation.

The method has been developed by Doug Dunlop, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital, and Professor Richard Oreffo, a specialist in musculoskeletal science at the University of Southampton.

The treatment involves extracting stem cells from the bone marrow of the patient and mixing it with other cleaned, crushed bone.

Dead and damaged tissue is then removed from the hip joint by surgeons, and the resulting hole is filled with the bone marrow mixture.

Mr Dunlop says initial test results are encouraging.

He said: “Although this work is still ongoing, several patients who have had the procedure have reacted very well and, if we get the results we are hoping for, these patients won’t need to have their hip joints replaced – they should be fixed completely.”

Professor Oreffo added: “By using stem cells to send out chemical signals to blood vessels, we hope the body will continue to create new vessels in the hip which supply enough nutrients to maintain bone strength.”

Mr Dunlop will be joined by other medical experts at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust’s orthopaedic open evening on Thursday, at the Lyndhurst Park Hotel in Lyndhurst.

Anyone interested in attending the event, which takes place between 7pm and 9pm, should call 023 8079 4853 or email uhsmember@uhs.nhs.