What is Hip Joint Replacement?

Sandy Baker

Hip joint replacement, also known as hip arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to replace the hip with an artificial joint. The procedure may replace all or part of the hip joint, depending on the amount of deterioration. The artificial joint implanted is called a prosthesis.

An X-ray of the pelvic area, showing a replacement hip.
An X-ray of the pelvic area, showing a replacement hip.

A prosthetic hip implant has four parts. An artificial socket replaces the old socket and is usually made of metal. A liner fits into the new socket to allow the new joint to move; it is usually made of plastic. A ceramic or metal ball will replace the round head of the thighbone. The final part is a metal stem that attaches to the thighbone shaft to provide stability.

A prosthetic hip implant can be composed of metal, plastic and ceramic.
A prosthetic hip implant can be composed of metal, plastic and ceramic.

Hip replacement is often necessary when the cartilage within the joint deteriorates, leading to severely debilitating, painful arthritis. The prosthetic implant allows the individual to regain the ability to use the joint with limited or no pain. A doctor may recommend the hip joint replacement procedure if the patient cannot sleep at night, if other treatments have been unsuccessful, or when the pain prevents the patient from participating in daily activities such as walking or bathing.

Some amount of pain is usually experienced following a hip joint replacement.
Some amount of pain is usually experienced following a hip joint replacement.

In total hip joint replacement, the doctor will remove the head of the thighbone, and then clean out the hip socket to remove any remaining cartilage and damaged bone. The doctor will then put in the new hip socket and insert a metal stem into the thighbone. Special cement ensures the parts remain in place. The doctor then places a liner and ball into the artificial joint, repairs the muscles and tendons around the joint, and closes up the surgical cut.

Hip joint replacement surgery does have risks. Allergic reactions and breathing problems associated with the use of anesthesia may occur. Bleeding, blood clots and heart attacks are possible. After the procedure, doctors will monitor the patient for potential infections, which, if present, may require the removal of the joint. Some people may experience an allergic reaction to the artificial joint, dislocation of the joint, or abnormal bone growth.

The prosthetic implant often provides the patient with improvement in mobility, reduction of pain, and relief from stiffness. The implant will loosen over time, sometimes after as long as 15 to 20 years, which may require another hip joint replacement produce. Patients who are younger and more active may wear out the hip sooner, therefore requiring a new joint more quickly. Doctors may encourage younger patients to put off having total joint replacement as long as possible to minimize the need for an additional surgery.

Hip replacement is often necessary when the cartilage within the joint deteriorates, leading to severely debilitating, painful arthritis.
Hip replacement is often necessary when the cartilage within the joint deteriorates, leading to severely debilitating, painful arthritis.

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