The contributions of William H. Harris, MD, to total hip replacement are vast and range from the identification of the nature of osteolysis to the development of surgical techniques and implants. He invented the cement gun which replaced finger packing and improved cementing technique. He designed the first modular metal-backed acetabular component, which gave surgeons the ability to replace the polyethylene liner without having to remove the entire component. Dr. Harris successfully performed the first total hip replacement in a patient with a total congenital dislocation of the hip. In addition, he designed implants specifically for these patients. Today, these procedures are no longer unusual.
He performed one of the first femoral head autograft procedures and one of the first femoral head allograft procedures: two techniques that are now widely used. Along with his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harris was the first to centrifuge cement. Designed by Dr. Harris, the Total System, introduced in 1983, was the first integrated system providing an entire range of cemented and cementless implants. Dr. Harris is recognized throughout the medical world for his development of the Harris Hip Score, which rates a patient’s progress on pain and function following surgery. His work on surgical techniques, implant design, development of new operations, prevention of blood clot formation and other leading advances in total hip surgery are widely recognized.
Dr. Harris was one of the designers to create the first successful cementless acetabular component. This was the first time screws were put through the acetabular component to fix it to the skeleton. In addition, he is the designer of one of the most successful long-term femoral components. Dr. Harris was Chief of the Adult Reconstructive Surgery and Director of the Orthopedic Biomechanics and Biomaterials Laboratory of the Massachusetts General Hospital. He has been Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at the Harvard Medical School since 1974 and has been awarded the Alan Gerry Chair as Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Harris’ is now retired.
A founding member of The Hip Society of North America, Dr. Harris was also its first president. He went on to be a founding member of and president of the International Hip Society. The Hip Society granted Dr. Harris an unprecedented eight honorary awards for outstanding contributions to hip surgery, and he has twice won the prestigious Kappa Delta Award of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons for outstanding orthopedic research. Dr. Harris is the author of some 400 scientific publications and three textbooks dealing with hip surgery, arthritis and diseases of the skeleton.