Hip Replacement Surgery Facts

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Hip replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces a damaged hip with an artificial joint, called a prosthesis. The goal of hip replacement surgery is to replace the damaged parts of the hip joint and to relieve hip pain that can’t be controlled by other treatments. You may be a candidate for this procedure if hip pain causes you to struggle with daily activities such as walking, sitting, or even resting. Hip replacement surgery is usually performed in adults 60 and older, but younger people may have it, too.

Common Reasons for Hip Replacement Surgery

Severe pain from arthritis is the most common reason for hip replacement surgery. Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that affects mostly middle-aged and older adults, causes the breakdown of joint cartilage and bone in the hips. Rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation of the joints and nearby tissue, can lead to pain and stiffness. Arthritis caused by injury can also damage cartilage in the hip.

A hip fracture is another reason some people need hip replacement surgery. Most fractures are caused by falls. Certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis, weaken your bones and make them more vulnerable to fractures. Pain from a fracture can be severe and make walking or even moving your leg difficult. Other conditions that may require hip replacement include infections and hip deformities.

The Medical Consultation

You and your doctor will decide if hip replacement surgery is right for you. Your doctor may suggest alternative treatments first, including anti-inflammatory and pain medications, physical therapy, limiting your activities, and using an assistive walking device, such as a cane. If none of these helps relieve your pain, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Types of Artificial Hip Joints

The two most common types of artificial hip joints used in replacement surgery are cemented prostheses and uncemented prostheses. Sometimes, a combination of the two types is used. A hip prosthesis is made up of metal and plastic. A cemented prosthesis is attached to the bone with a type of surgical cement. An uncemented prosthesis attaches to the bone with a fine mesh of holes. The remaining bone grows around the prosthesis and attaches naturally during the healing process.

Before Surgery

Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a complete physical examination, including X-rays, to ensure you are in good health before undergoing surgery. You may also meet with a physical therapist to discuss rehabilitation after the surgery.

Making certain adjustments at home before the procedure may help during your recovery. Consider rearranging furniture to make getting around easier and installing safety handrails along the stairs and in the shower or bath to prevent falls.

During Surgery

A traditional hip replacement involves an incision about 10 to 12 inches long over the hip joint. Newer approaches, called minimally invasive hip replacements, use one or two smaller incisions to perform the procedure. Your doctor will determine the best procedure for you.

After Surgery

Hip replacement surgeries usually require you to stay in the hospital for several days. While in the hospital, you’ll begin physical therapy exercises to regain range of motion and strength in your hip. Physical therapy will continue at home.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 14

  1. Total Hip Replacement. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00377

  2. Minimally Invasive Total Hip Replacement. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00404

  3. Hip joint replacement. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002975.htm

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