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Professor Robin Ling

Creator of Exeter hip dies

A surgeon who played an integral role in creating an artificial implant that revolutionised hip replacements worldwide has died.

Professor Robin Ling co-designed the Exeter Hip, alongside Dr Clive Lee, both of the University of Exeter. Professor Ling was appointed Honorary Professor of Bioengineering in the School of Engineering the University of Exeter in 1986, and both he and Dr Lee were awarded Honorary Degrees from Exeter in 2009. The hip was created in collaboration with engineering scientists at the University.

First used in 1970, the Exeter hip revolutionised hip replacement operations with a 'metal on plastic' cemented hip. It is now the most frequently used cemented hip replacement in the world, with more than one million operations undertaken by the end of 2010. Approximately 90,000 hips are now used each year – the equivalent of the adult population of Exeter.

The Exeter Hip is suitable for patients of all ages. It is hugely successful, with more than 90 per cent of patients being totally pain-free following surgery. Success rates are better than 95 per cent.

Professor Ling was born in 1927, and studied Medicine at Oxford and St Mary’s Hospital, London, before specialising in orthopaedics.

He became a consultant at the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital in Exeter in June, 1963, becoming an honorary consultant there in April 1991.

Starting in 1965, Professor Ling developed a special interest in replacement arthroplasty of the hip that led to his work in the School of Engineering Science at the University of Exeter, in cooperation with Dr Lee and others. He was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1992.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “Robin was a man with amazing intellect, and a great supporter of the University and of Engineering here. Of all his achievements during his distinguished career, the one that will surely be Robin’s lasting legacy will be his work, along with colleague Clive Lee, to create one of the most successful hip replacements worldwide.  And I say this as a proud recipient of two Exeter hips myself. We were very proud to have him as one of our most esteemed Honorary Graduates, and he will be greatly missed.”

Professor Ling’s career saw him co-author many international publications and hold visiting professorships in a number of international universities. He held prominent national and international positions, including President of the British Orthopaedic Association 1986-7 and President of the International Hip Society 1997-98.

Date: 12 October 2017

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