Will the hospital let me keep my hip after it's replaced?
February 28, 2013 11:44 PM   Subscribe

I realize this is an incredibly weird question. I'm having a total hip replacement, and I would like to keep the bones they take outta me. Is it possible the hospital will let me, or are there laws against this? I live in the U.S.
posted by amandi to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd ask your surgeon. Would think it would fall under the category of hazardous medical waste, but I do have to say that my doc brought the disc material he carved out from my back surgery in a little jar so I could admire how much he removed. He was more than willing to let me take it home, however it was in a jar with liquid (alcohol or formaldehyde?) so less... messy.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:04 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

some patients for religious reasons ask to take away materials as they prefer to be buried with them. One amputee had the undertaker come to a hospital I worked in and take his leg for burial that week. I think 1 eyebrow was raised and one f*ck was given. By that I mean no-one really cared as those patients did not have any communicable diseases which is the only grounds in Ireland at the time that would have stopped it. I know the US is very different about body parts but they can be sealed (I vaguely recall a technician sealing some piece of a jawbone for a child with cancer into a plastic brick thingy he took home).
I believe the key is you can't actually touch the material directly and also the other rate limiting factor would be the patience of the unit. It would mean some extra work if the idea caught on.
posted by Wilder at 1:44 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Teeth may be different, but I was able to keep my wisdom teeth when they were pulled. I have been told by others, though, that their dentists and oral surgeons had told them "no, it is medical waste". So, it may vary on the disposition of the surgeon. Can't hurt to ask.
posted by chiefthe at 2:11 AM on March 1, 2013

My surgeons would not give me brain tissue they removed. This may have been because I did not ask until after the surgery, or because I admitted I wanted to keep it in a jar on my desk and tell complaining people that the medical science had cut out my concern for their problems.

So, I would a) ask in advance and b) find a "more serious" reason.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:30 AM on March 1, 2013 [81 favorites]

When my colon was removed I couldn't keep it because it had to be sent out to pathology, and also because colons are huge and I live in NYC (I am only half joking). I did, however, ask the surgeons to take a picture of it for me, and a very nice resident used his iPhone and emailed me the pictures a few days after the surgery. If they aren't down with giving you the bones I bet they would be willing to at least take some pictures of them for you.
posted by telegraph at 5:51 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I knew a guy in grade school who kept his tonsils, so yeah it's possible.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 5:54 AM on March 1, 2013

I got to see my appendix when it was removed. But I didn't get to keep it--again, pathology purposes; they send it to the lab.

After my arthroscopic hip surgery, to repair a labral tear, I was given what looked like a contact sheet of views taken during the repair inside my hip joint space. There are a few sheets of them. Maybe that is an option, if they won't let you take home your hip bone?
posted by FergieBelle at 6:08 AM on March 1, 2013

I live in NYC. Each time I've had surgery (on my back), I've asked for the bone/disc material pulled, and the answer was that it's all sent to pathology and no, you can't have the stuff after.

That being said, my surgeon took pictures of each surgery. He even used some pictures in a paper! (I had a very unusual case of Cauda Equina Syndrome)

I like to show them off, because I'm weird and because I had the single largest disc herniation in the history of Mt. Sinai. f you can get pictures, they are much more portable and you can whip them out at totally bizarre times to shock and freak out people. :)
posted by carmenghia at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Among the papers you will sign before the surgery are releases to give all removed tissue over to the hospital and also give them rights to anything cool they find there. If they find the cure for cancer in your hip, you will not get a dime (but you should negotiate rights to your other hip to the drug companies in that case). That's one of the very unlikely fruits of the pathology. More likely it will be used for educational or research purposes. Also, pathologists fashion femurs into war-clubs and do battle with the hospital administrators.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sadly, I don't think most American hospitals are down with this. I had my tonsils removed in the Philippines, and got to take them home in a bag like a goldfish from a county fair, and apparently my uncle got to at least temporarily keep his hip after a replacement a year or two ago (also in the Philippines) but probably photos are your best option in the US.
posted by PussKillian at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2013

Before a nerve biopsy, I asked for and got a slide with a cross-section of my sural nerve. (I love whipping it out in response to "if you tried/prayed harder, maybe you wouldn't be disabled".)
posted by Soliloquy at 9:26 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was supposed to get my tonsils back, but the surgeon had them sent straight to the incinerator. The term he used to describe the discharge from my chronically infected tonsils when pressed upon was "tonsil cheese".
posted by hwyengr at 9:46 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I asked a resident to keep the screws from my hip fracture when I had them removed. He did so, but ran them through the autoclave before he gave them to me. They're in my night stand. I think asking someone with access who isn't the lead surgeon may be the key to success. I have no clue whether your bone can be sterilized in an autoclave though.

I am absolutely going to do this when I have my inevitable hip replacement. I want to mount it like a taxidermied animal.
posted by PhatLobley at 10:09 AM on March 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine has his hip bone in a jar, which he merrily displays to everyone who visits. (I'm a gorehound, so this pleases me immensely.) This was in London, though.
posted by vickyverky at 10:21 AM on March 1, 2013

I have no experience with this whatsoever, but maybe you could find a company that cleans bones - yes, they exist; they do it for the display skeletons in museums and whatnot - and ask that the bone be sent directly there, then to you after it's cleaned? That way they can be sure that you will never be handling biological waste of any kind; that what you'll get back is a perfectly clean piece of bone.

Of course this will cost some, but I can't imagine it would be very much. It's a very small piece, after all.
posted by Urban Winter at 10:45 AM on March 1, 2013

A relative of mine had hip replacement surgery. One of the first questions the doctor asked him was if he'd be willing to donate the bone for future medical use. Apparently they take the bone grind it up and turn it into a cement/paste-like substance and use it to help set really bad fractures in other patients. My relative said yes to this because he saw it as a way of putting his bone to good use and helping other people.

What the doctor did add, however, is that they typically only ask men for this as women's bones aren't suitable (too soft if I recall correctly).

So while I can't answer your question about keeping your own bones, keep in mind there may be good use for the material rather than sitting on your coffee table.
posted by sardonyx at 11:25 AM on March 1, 2013

A friend of mine works for a company that makes that bone paste; they're definitely selling it back to other patients at a premium.
posted by sibboleth at 1:01 PM on March 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

My coworker's husband had double knee replacement surgery, and asked for (and got) the bone pieces. That was the thing, though, the bones were in pieces. The surgeon takes off bone incrementally, working toward the template for the replacement joint. The theory being, that they can take off more, but they can't add it back. Hospital staff gave my coworker an opaque container. When she got home, she peeked before tossing it in the freezer, and told us she'd never look at canned sliced peaches the same way again.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 3:55 PM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If they won't give you the whole thing, maybe you could talk them into giving you a piece the size of your thumbnail. Tell 'em you want to make a necklace out of it or something.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:11 PM on March 1, 2013

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