Your doctor will determine which type of surgery is best for you and how long you need to stay in the hospital or surgical center based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different total hip replacement procedures and ask why your doctor will use a particular type of procedure for you.

Types of anesthesia that may be used

Your surgeon will perform a total hip replacement using either regional anesthesia or general anesthesia, depending on the specific procedure. 

  • General anesthesia is a combination of intravenous (IV) medications and gases that put you in a deep sleep. You are unaware of the procedure and will not feel any pain. You may also receive a peripheral nerve block infusion in addition to general anesthesia. A peripheral nerve block infusion involves an injection or a continuous drip of a liquid anesthetic. The anesthetic flows through a tiny tube inserted near your surgical site to control pain during and after surgery.
  • Regional anesthesia is also known as a nerve block, an epidural, or spinal anesthesia. Your anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will inject an anesthetic around certain nerves in the spine so you do not feel anything from the waist down. You will likely have sedation with regional anesthesia to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

What to expect the day of your total hip replacement

The day of your surgery, you can generally expect to:

  • Talk with a preoperative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure you understand and sign the surgical consent.
  • Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member if possible. The surgical team will give you blankets for modesty and warmth.
  • Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will receive.
  • A surgical team member will start an IV.
  • The anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will start your anesthesia.
  • A tube will be placed in your windpipe to protect and control your breathing during general anesthesia. A catheter will be inserted into your bladder to drain urine and monitor kidney function. You will not feel or remember these procedures or the surgery.
  • The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout the procedure and recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.

What are the risks and potential complications of a total hip replacement?  

As will all surgeries, hip replacement surgery involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or throughout your recovery.  

General risks of surgery 

The general risks of surgical procedures include: 

  • Anesthesia reaction, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing 
  • Bleeding, which can lead to shock or the need for blood transfusions.
  • Blood clot, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke. Blood clots in the legs or pelvis are the most common complication of a total hip replacement. To prevent this, your doctor may prescribe blood thinning medication, support hose, inflatable leg coverings, or ankle pump exercises.
  • Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood. This includes pneumonia.

Potential complications of a total hip replacement

Complications of a total hip replacement can be serious and include:

  • Abnormal bone growth 
  • Continued or worsened pain
  • Dislocation of the new joint
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loosening of the new joint causing pain and the possibility of additional surgery to secure the new joint
  • Nerve, muscle, or blood vessel damage
  • Uneven leg lengths may occur or worsen after a total hip replacement. Shoe lifts can help offset this complication.
  • Wear and tear of the new joint requiring another replacement