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What Is Involved In a Total Hip Replacement?

Hip replacement surgery is a procedure where a doctor surgically removes a painful hip joint and replaces it with an artificial one. For individuals living with hip pain and stiffness due to arthritis or injury, hip replacement surgery can provide pain relief and increased range of motion.

The Anatomy of the Hip

The hip is one of the largest joints in the body. A ball-and-socket joint, the primary function of the hips is to support the weight of the body in both static and dynamic postures.

Acetabulum — The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, which is formed by part of the pelvis bone known as the acetabulum.

Femoral Head — The ball of the hip is known as the formal head, which is located at the upper end of the femur.

Femur — The bone of the thigh or upper hind limb which articulates at the hip and the knee.

Pelvis — The large bony structure near the base of the spine.

Common Cause of Hip Pain

Arthritis

There are different types of arthritis that can cause hip pain. Osteoarthritis is an age-related type of arthritis typically caused by wear and tear over the years. This arthritis tends to occur in individuals 50 years of age and older. With osteoarthritis, the cartilage cushioning the bones of the hip wears away. This causes the bones to rub against each other, resulting in pain and stiffness in the hip.

Post-traumatic arthritis can occur following a serious hip injury or fracture. The cartilage can become damaged, leading to increased pain and stiffness over time.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the synovial membrane becomes inflamed and thickened. Chronic inflammation can damage the cartilage, resulting in pain and stiffness.

Avascular Necrosis

Any injury to the hip (such as dislocation or fracture) can limit the blood supply to the femoral head, known as avascular necrosis. A lack of blood to the area can cause the surface of the bone to collapse, resulting in arthritis.

Childhood Hip Disease

In some cases, infants and children have hip problems that may still cause arthritis later on in life, even after being treated. This happens because the hip may grow abnormally, and the joint surfaces are affected.

Types of Hip Replacement Surgery and What to Expect

In a total hip replacement, the damaged bone and cartilage of the hip is removed and replaced with prosthetic components. Hip replacement surgery can be performed in different ways — traditionally or by using what is considered a minimally-invasive technique.

Standard Hip Replacement

During a standard hip replacement, you will be given general anesthesia to relax your muscle and put you into a deep sleep. Your doctor will make a cut along the side of the hip bone and move the muscles connected to the top of the thighbone, which will expose the hip joint. The ball joint is removed by cutting the thighbone with a saw and an artificial joint is attached to the thighbone using cement or a special material.

Your doctor will then prepare the surface of the hipbone by removing any damaged cartilage and attaching the replacement socket to the hipbone. The new ball part of the thighbone is inserted into the socket of the hip and a drain may be placed to help drain excess fluid.

Minimally-Invasive Hip Replacement

While most doctors use the procedure above for total hip replacements, in recent years, some doctors have started using a minimally-invasive technique. With this technique, doctors make two cuts from two to five inches long instead of the standard eight to 10-inch long incision. The surgery is still performed the same way, but by utilizing the two smaller cuts.

The benefits of making two smaller incisions are that they lessen blood loss, ease pain following surgery, shorten hospital time, speed up the healing process, and reduce scarring. However, research has shown the outcomes with the minimally-invasive approach may be worse than with a standard total hip replacement unless performed by a doctor who is very experienced with this technique.

What to Expect After Total Hip Replacement Surgery

Following a total hip replacement, you will stay in the hospital for four to six days. You may have to stay in bed with a wedge-shaped cushion between your legs, which will keep your new hip joint in place. A drainage tube will likely be placed in your bladder to help you eliminate waste and physical therapy will likely begin the day after surgery. You can expect to walk with a walker within days. You will continue physical therapy for weeks to months following the surgery.

Tip for a Faster Recovery

  • Avoid using the stairs if possible
  • Sit in a firm, straight-backed chair
  • Avoid recliners
  • Use an elevated toilet seat at home
  • Make sure floors are clutter free to avoid tripping

How Long Does a New Artificial Hip Joint Last After Hip Replacement Surgery?

Hip replacement surgeries were first performed in the early 1970s and were thought to last around 10 years. However, studies now show that the average artificial joint lasts 20 years thanks to Improvements in surgical technique and artificial joint materials.

Learn More About Hip Replacement Surgery at Alexander Orthopaedic Associates

If you are living with hip pain and stiffness, hip replacement surgery may be a viable treatment option for you. The caring professionals at Alexander Orthopaedic Associates are available to assess your unique situation to determine the proper course of treatment. Contact us today to get relief from the pain that comes from hip arthritis or injury.

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