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What Is a Hip Prosthesis?

A hip prosthesis can consist of a plastic cup inserted in the pelvis and a metal replacement for the top of the femur.
Doctors may recommend hip replacement because of some sort of degenerative disease that makes it impossible to restore the natural hip to health.
An X-ray of the hips.
An X-ray of the pelvic area, showing a prosthetic hip.
Article Details
  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Sometimes referred to as an artificial hip joint, the hip prosthesis is an artificial hip that is surgically attached when the natural hip is no longer able to function. Hip replacement surgery of this type occurs when the hip has been damaged beyond repair during an accident, or because of some sort of degenerative disease that makes it impossible to restore the natural hip to health. While there are a number of designs for prostheses of this type, most hip replacement devices are composed of two main components: the cup and the thighbone.

The cup component of the hip prosthesis is the portion that is inserted into the hip socket of the pelvis. This section of the device effectively replaces the portion of the hip where the femur or upper bone of the leg would fit into the structure of the hip itself. By attaching the cup directly to the pelvic bone, it is possible to restore much of the range of motion that was possible with the original hip.

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Once the cup is in place, the thighbone section of the hip prosthesis can be inserted and attached. Also known as the femoral component, this section of the device effectively completes the connection between the pelvis and the leg bone. Shaped like a simple stem, the bottom portion of the section is embedded in the bone marrow of the femur or legbone. The upper portion is outfitted with a ceramic or metal ball that serves the same purpose as the femoral head that was removed as part of the hip replacement surgery. This ball attachment fits neatly into the cup section.

The degree of success achieved with the use of a hip prosthesis will vary, based on several factors. Some designs for the artificial hip joint are not as reliable as other models. The general condition of the remaining section of the pelvis, as well as the bone tissue of the upper leg, can also contribute to the success or failure of the operation. Various types of health issues that affect the function of the muscles and joints in general may also cause the replacement surgery to only restore a portion of the normal range of motion. As with the introduction of any artificial organ or component into the body, there is the possibility of rejection.

However, enhancements in hip replacement surgery and the development of functional prosthesis in general have greatly increased the success rate of this type of operation in recent years. People who receive a hip prosthesis today are much more likely to experience the ability to ambulate without the aid of a cane or walker, enjoy an almost normal range of motion, and in general experience much less discomfort with the artificial joint. While there are still risks associated with receiving a hip implant, the potential for infection or rejection is much less than in years past.

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