HIP replacements for some patients could be a thing of the past after surgeons pioneered a new stem cell procedure to tackle a bone disease that leads to arthritis.

Doctors at Southampton General Hospital are extracting stem cells from the bone marrow of patients in need of hip repair due to osteonecrosis – a condition where poor blood supply causes bone damage leading to severe arthritis.

These cells are mixed with cleaned, crushed bone from another patient who has had their own hip replaced and used to fill the hole made by surgeons after dead and damaged tissue has been removed from the joint.

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

Osteonecrosis is on the rise in the UK with around 4000 cases a year but it is much more widespread in Asia, the hospital said.

It can also be treated with drugs to help avoid arthritis and usually strikes between 30 and 50 years of age.

Arthritis in general affects one in five people in the UK.