What is Total Hip Replacement?

M. DePietro

If an individual suffers from a problem with his hip, such as hip arthritis, bone cancer and certain hip deformities, he may have pain and a limited range of motion. If typical treatments, such as physical therapy and pain medication don’t provide enough relief, a total hip replacement may be recommended. A physician will evaluate symptoms, their severity, impact on daily living and other treatments available prior to recommending a total hip replacement.

A patient is usually given general anesthesia for hip replacement surgery.
A patient is usually given general anesthesia for hip replacement surgery.

During a total hip replacement, the hip joint will be replaced with an artificial one. An incision is made and the femur is separated from the hip socket. Any tissue or bone which is damaged from conditions such as arthritis will be removed. The ball, which is at the head of the femur, is replaced with an artificial one. An artificial hip socket is implanted into the pelvic bone and attached to the femur.

The hip joint is replaced with an artificial one during total hip replacement surgery.
The hip joint is replaced with an artificial one during total hip replacement surgery.

Various types of material can be used to create the prosthetic hip, including steel, plastic and titanium. Sometimes a combination of materials will be used. Individual patient situations will help a surgeon determine what materials to use. The prosthetics are made to be compatible with the human body and rejection is rarely a problem.

During a total hip replacement, the socket of the pelvis and the top of the femur are replaced with a prosthesis.
During a total hip replacement, the socket of the pelvis and the top of the femur are replaced with a prosthesis.

The procedure usually takes a few hours to complete and is done under general anesthesia. Immediately after surgery,the incision site may be sore along with the hip area. Sometimes tubes are placed in the wound at the incision site, which allows fluid to drain out. Tubes are usually removed within a day.

A total hip replacement can relieve joint pain.
A total hip replacement can relieve joint pain.

Total hip replacement surgery does have a few risks associated with it. Leg movement may be limited immediately after surgery, which can cause blood clots to develop in the legs. Compression stockings are usually ordered, which can reduce the chances of clots developing. Although rare, an infection can also develop after surgery. Occasionally the tissue around the new joint can harden, which causes stiffness.

For those with a faulty hip joint, hip replacement surgery can significantly increase mobility, in turn improving quality of life.
For those with a faulty hip joint, hip replacement surgery can significantly increase mobility, in turn improving quality of life.

Most patients will be encouraged to stand and try to walk within a day of surgery. Physical therapy may be prescribed as the patient adjusts to the artificial hip. The surgeon will advise a patient on how fast he may resume activities. Certain activities which are high impact, such as jogging, may be restricted temporarily or permanently, depending on the patient.

Depending on the age of the patient at the time of the total hip replacement and their activity level, the replacement may need a revision in the future. Overtime the joint can loosen and usually prosthetic joints are not as durable as real joints. Patients will be instructed on how to increase he longevity of their replacement.

Wearing compression stockings following total hip replacement surgery can reduce the odds of blood clots forming in the legs.
Wearing compression stockings following total hip replacement surgery can reduce the odds of blood clots forming in the legs.

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