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Hip replacement surgery is a common procedure where artificial parts replace diseased bone. The purpose is to remove parts of the bone(s) to reduce or relieve pain when there is an injury or disease of the bone. The artificial parts function like a normal hip joint. This is also known as hip arthroplasty.

Why would I need hip replacement surgery?

Hip replacements are commonly done to relieve pain and improve the function of the hip. When pain interferes with everyday activities, it can be difficult to get around. Surgery becomes an option when nonsurgical treatments, like therapy, are not effective.

Diseases and injuries can cause damage to the hip joint. These can lead to the need for surgical replacements. Surgery may be necessary due to:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Injuries like fracture or dislocation
  • Osteonecrosis
  • Bone tumor
  • Childhood hip disorders (hip dysplasia, slipped capital femoral epiphysis, etc.)

The surgery can be beneficial to those who have these problems. The goal of surgery is to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Improve movement of the hip joint
  • Increase flexibility

Surgery generally takes place after other pain relief options have not been effective. Patients may try physical therapy, medications, exercise, or assistive devices before considering surgery.

What symptoms might point to hip replacement?

Hip pain can be a common symptom of several ailments. But, not all warrant hip surgery. Common symptoms that point to problems that lead to hip replacements can include:

  • Pain in the front of the hip
  • Pain in the buttock
  • Pain with movement, activity, or rest
  • Pain increases when placing weight on the leg
  • Difficulty getting comfortable to sleep
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty bending, sitting, or standing up
  • Decrease in motion
  • Stiffness or tightness in the hip

Do I need a hip replacement?

If you have symptoms, a hip replacement may be the right treatment. Your healthcare provider will suggest you have an evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon will determine if this procedure is the best option for you.

The orthopedic surgeon specializes in treating bone, muscle, and joint injuries and diseases. The surgeon will complete a physical examination to understand what causes your pain. You will likely have an X-ray and, in some cases, an MRI or other testing.

If the surgeon determines you need the surgery, they will discuss which one would be best for you. Blood tests and an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) may be necessary before the surgery.

Are there options available?

The surgeon will discuss the best course of treatment with you. Then they will determine which type of surgery would be most effective. There are two types:

  • Total hip replacements replace the ball end of the leg bone (the femoral head) and the socket of the pelvis (the acetabulum). This is the most common type.
  • Partial hip replacements replace the femoral head and are done for injuries or fractures.

You and your surgeon may discuss a minimally invasive hip replacement versus a traditional hip replacement. A minimally invasive procedure may reduce harm to the muscles, blood vessels, and tissues around the hip. This option can:

  • Improve healing
  • Decrease pain
  • Reduce recovery time
  • Potentially limit post-surgical complications

Minimal procedures use small incisions and move the muscles rather than cut them. Unfortunately, this is not for all patients. Age, weight, fitness level, and other factors determine if you are eligible.

Traditional hip replacements need through large incisions on the side or back of the hip. This procedure has a longer recovery time. The muscles get cut and repaired and the replacement of bones.

Is surgery a good idea?

The purpose of hip replacement surgery is to relieve pain and improve the function of the hip. This is beneficial for most patients. The surgery can also improve the strength and movement of the hip and leg. It can increase the ability to walk, climb up and down stairs, and have an active lifestyle.

What to expect during surgery

A hip replacement is performed with general anesthesia. Some surgeons will use a numbing medication directly around the hip as well. The procedure is done in the hospital and you will likely stay there for a couple of days.

During the surgery, the surgeon will make the incision, or cut, over the hip until the bone is visible. Then they remove damaged or diseased bone. They attach the new implant or prosthetic to the healthy bone. Then the surgical team carefully closes the wound.

What to expect after the surgery

When the surgery is complete, you will recover in a room. Healing begins quickly, and staff will prompt you to get up and walk as soon as possible. Rehabilitation will begin soon after and last for several weeks. This ensures proper strength and motion return to the hip.

Physical therapy and occupational therapy will provide exercises. These exercises help you return to normal everyday activities and reduce limitations. Patients need to take part in their rehab programs and care plans. This ensures they have the most effective recovery.

Complications of hip replacement surgery

Complications can happen with hip replacement surgery as they can with any surgery. Most patients do well, but it is important to be aware that complications could occur.

Surgical risks can include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Dislocation of the hip/prosthesis
  • Unrelieved pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Fracture
  • Change in length of the leg

Also, be aware that in time, it may become necessary to replace the replacement. The prosthesis may wear out over time, requiring another replacement. This has been more common in those who are young and active when they have their initial hip replacement.

Conclusion

Hip replacement surgeries are common procedures intended to reduce pain and improve function. Surgeons may provide different options if other treatments have not worked. Every person’s recovery is different. Hip replacement patients can return to better function than before the surgery with proper treatment and rehab.

Key takeaways

Hip replacements are commonly done to relieve pain and improve the function of the hip.

Diseases and injuries can cause damage to the hip joint.

If you have symptoms, a hip replacement may be the right treatment.

In time, it may become necessary to replace the replacement.

Resources

Cleveland Clinic. Hip Replacement (Hip Arthroplasty).

Mayo Clinic. Hip replacement.

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Hip Replacement Surgery.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Hip Replacement Surgery.

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