Answering Your Top Questions About Total Hip Replacement

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If you’re suffering from chronic hip pain that just won’t quit, you may have wondered if total hip replacement surgery is right for you. Replacing your worn out hip joint with an artificial one can bring relief, but it’s major surgery so naturally you probably have lots of questions. Keep reading to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about total hip replacement.

What Exactly is a Total Hip Replacement?

A total hip replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces your damaged hip joint with artificial components. The surgeon removes the arthritic ball of your thigh bone (femur) along with any bone spurs and damaged cartilage in your hip socket. These are replaced with new artificial parts made of metal, plastic, or ceramic materials to create a smoothly functioning joint. The new ball component is fixed into the hollow center of your femur bone, while the socket component is fitted into your pelvis. Together these new components act as a smoothly gliding artificial hip joint.

Who is a Good Candidate for a Hip Replacement?

If you have severe hip arthritis or an injury that has damaged your hip joint, resulting in chronic pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility, you may be a candidate for hip replacement surgery. Your orthopaedic surgeon will determine if surgery is the right option after evaluating your condition, medical history, x-rays, exam results, and response to conservative treatments like medication, physical therapy, or steroid injections. Age alone does not determine candidacy if you are reasonably healthy and committed to continue living an active lifestyle. However, most hip replacements are performed on patients ages 60 and older.

How Long Do Hip Replacements Last?

Today’s artificial hip implants are designed to last many years for most patients. However, there are no guarantees and all implants have a limited lifespan depending on factors like your age, activity level, body weight, and medical conditions. With proper use and care, most people can expect their new hip to last 15-20 years or longer before requiring replacement. Be sure to follow all of your surgeon’s recommendations for protecting your new hip and speak with them about your individual prognosis. Periodic x-rays will help monitor your hip replacement over time.

What Are the Risks or Complications?

While serious complications are relatively rare, as with any major surgery, hip replacement does carry potential risks. These include blood clots, infection, dislocation of the new hip joint, bone fracture, loosening or wear of components, nerve damage, implant breakage or failure, leg length discrepancy, and premature wear requiring early revision surgery to replace components. Work closely with your surgical team to take precautions against complications. Alert your surgeon promptly about any issues like pain, swelling, redness, drainage, or fever after surgery.

What is the Recovery Period Like After Hip Replacement?

The hospital stay is typically 1-3 days. You’ll begin physical therapy the day after surgery to start gently moving the hip joint and regaining mobility. Most patients use crutches or a walker at first but can walk unassisted within a few weeks. At home, focus on hip strengthening and range of motion exercises as directed by your orthopedic team. Avoid high impact activities or pivotal movements that could dislocate the hip. Most people can resume driving 2-6 weeks after surgery and normal daily activities around 6 weeks post-op, though full recovery takes about 3-6 months. Listen to your body and gradually increase activity under your doctor’s guidance.

Will I Need Physical Therapy?

Yes, physical therapy is a critical part of your recovery starting in the hospital and continuing at home for about 2-3 months post-surgery. Under the supervision of your physical therapist, you’ll do specific hip exercises that strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and balance, and retrain proper gait mechanics. This helps maximize function and outcomes from your new hip. Attend all therapy sessions and perform daily home exercises as prescribed.

How Can I Make My New Hip Last Longer?

Practice good hip health by staying active, maintaining a healthy body weight, and having any symptoms evaluated promptly. Adhere to all precautions given by your surgeon like avoiding high impact activities that could damage the implant. Listen to your body and slow down if your hip becomes painful. Use an assistive device like a cane if needed for stability on uneven terrain. Remaining muscular protects your hip joint by absorbing shock better. Stay well hydrated and get regular checkups to keep your hip replacement in good working order for many years.

Am I a Candidate for New Minimally Invasive Hip Replacement Techniques?

Ask your orthopaedic surgeon if less invasive surgical techniques utilizing smaller incisions are appropriate options in your case. Many doctors now perform hip replacements using minimally invasive approaches. When combined with new pain management techniques, some patients may qualify for rapid recovery protocols including outpatient hip replacement. Discuss your goals and health status with your surgeon to customize the optimal treatment plan for your needs and circumstances.

Additional Questions to Ask your Orthopaedic Surgeon:

  • What does outpatient hip replacement surgery involve?
  • What advantages come with this type of surgery?
  • What type of incision will be made during the procedure?
  • To what extent can I expect post-surgery pain?
  • What actions should I take upon returning home from the surgery?
  • Which medications should I take during my recovery at home?
  • When is it appropriate for me to take a shower post-surgery?
  • How soon can I resume driving after the hip replacement?
  • Is it safe for me to navigate stairs during my recovery?
  • How long is it recommended to wear compression stockings?
  • Are there specific precautions I should be aware of?
  • What steps should I follow in case of a fall during recovery?
  • How long will I receive home services following the surgery?
  • When is my scheduled follow-up appointment with the hip surgeon?

Do you have additional questions about whether total hip replacement is right for your hip pain? Or are you unsure which qualified surgeon to consult for hip surgery in your local area? Reach out to orthopaedic specialist Dr. Herrick J. Siegel of Siegel Orthopaedics in Birmingham, AL for helpful answers. With over 15,000 hip and knee replacements performed, Dr. Siegel has the expertise to guide you on the latest options for restoring mobility and getting you back to the active lifestyle you deserve.