What are the Different Hip Replacement Alternatives?

Nick Mann

Hip replacement surgery is a common operation most often performed to alleviate chronic hip arthritis. Since this surgery carries the risk of complications, many prospective patients are curious about some of the available hip replacement alternatives. Some primary alternatives include medication, hip resurfacing, hip osteotomy and arthrodesis. Discussing the pros and cons of each treatment with an orthopedic doctor should help most people decide which option is best.

Radiograph showing a hip prosthesis.
Radiograph showing a hip prosthesis.

Medication is one of the simpler hip replacement alternatives, and is best suited to individuals experiencing minimal to mild pain. Medicinal treatment is sufficient in many cases, and can lessen — or even eliminate — hip pain. There are a variety of medications to choose from, ranging from anti-inflammatory treatments to narcotics. Most patients start with an over-the-counter medication to test the effects. If that proves inadequate, a prescription medication is often the next step.

There are many good alternatives to hip replacement for addressing moderate hip pain.
There are many good alternatives to hip replacement for addressing moderate hip pain.

Hip resurfacing is another one of the hip replacement alternatives that is ideal only for certain individuals. The procedure is similar to a traditional hip replacement, but is less invasive and requires less bone to be removed from the hip joint. Traditional hip replacement surgeries remove the entire ball of the hip joint and replace it with a metal ball. Hip resurfacing is different because instead of removing the ball, a metal cap is placed on it to alleviate pain, and only a minimal amount of bone is removed.

A hip osteotomy is a hip replacement alternative mainly intended for people suffering from hip arthritis stemming from misaligned bones. This procedure realigns the bones surrounding the hip joint by cutting part of the femur. Only a small percentage of patients are candidates for an osteotomy, and most suffer from bone developmental issues. One of the most common problems that can be helped by an osteotomy is hip dysplasia, which is an abnormal hip formation occurring in some children.

Arthrodesis is one of the more sparingly used hip replacement alternatives. This procedure — also known as hip fusion — uses a metal plate and screws to fuse the femur and pelvis bones together. Hip pain is basically eliminated, but some mobility is lost in the process. Another drawback is that the patient may be left with a limp after surgery.

It's usually a good idea to consult with an orthopedic doctor when seriously considering hip replacement surgery or an alternative procedure. He should be able to determine the ideal option after assessing an individual's circumstances and condition.

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