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What is Hip Replacement Surgery?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hip replacement surgery is a surgical procedure in which a damaged hip bone is replaced to reduce pain for the patient while increasing freedom of movement and the ability to perform an assortment of tasks. This procedure is most commonly used in patients who suffer from severe arthritis which causes damage to the hip bone, although it may also be used in the instances of people who have had traumatic injuries to the hip, or cases of necrosis in which part of the bone in the hip joint has died. In all instances, this surgery is a major procedure, and it is usually undertaken as a treatment of last resort.

In hip replacement surgery, an incision is made in the upper thigh to expose the top of the femur. Part of the bone is removed, and a prosthetic is fitted and seated in the socket of the pelvis. Sometimes, it is necessary to replace part of the socket as well. The prosthesis is fixed in place using a variety of techniques, depending on the preference of the surgeon, and the wound is closed. Usually, the patient begins light physical therapy in the hospital within a day after the surgery to learn how to use the new joint, and he or she will continue with an extended physical therapy program over time to get accustomed to the artificial hip and learn to use it properly.

Partial hip replacement involves just the ball of the femur, while total hip replacement, also known as total hip arthroplasty, involves the replacement of the ball and the upper portion of the bone. Traditionally, both procedures are performed as an open surgery, meaning that the surgeon makes a large incision to access the site, although minimally invasive hip replacement using a much smaller incision is also available. Recovery times from minimally invasive procedure tend to be shorter, and the patient experiences less pain.

Some complications can arise after a hip replacement surgery. The joint may become dislocated or slide out of place, and the patient can also experience blood clots, infections, or differences in leg length. Older patients can also have difficulty recovering from the procedure, which can last from two to four hours, depending on its complexity, and some people have adverse reactions to anesthesia. Using a skilled and experienced physician is critical to reduce the risk of developing these complications.

After hip replacement surgery, people must rest the joint for several weeks. Once a patient has been cleared by a surgeon, he or she can engage in more strenuous activities, although deep stretches of the joint, high impact sports, and heavy lifting are not advised, as these activities can damage the artificial hip. Many patients can return to a normal activity level after hip replacement surgery, minus the pain and irritation they experienced from their damaged hip joints before the surgery.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By SarahJay123 — On Nov 06, 2012

Great article. I'm having a hip replacement next month so it's great to read up on it!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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