Reston Hospital Center - October 03, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 300,000 hip replacements are performed each year.

Hip replacements are performed for patients who have damaged the ball and socket joint, and experience pain or limited activity despite other treatments. The most common cause of damage is osteoarthritis, which causes pain, swelling and limited motion in the joints. Individuals with hip injuries or conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, may also be good candidates for a replacement.

What happens during a hip replacement?

During the surgery, the damaged cartilage and bone from the hip is removed and replaced with man-made prostheses. The prostheses are typically made of metal, plastic and ceramic, based on the surgeon’s preference and how long the implants need to last. Hip replacement surgery is usually a one-time procedure for older patients, but younger patients may need more than one surgery.

A six to 12-inch incision is made over the side of the hip, through the muscle. This is where the damaged cartilage and bone is removed and replaced with the prosthesis. Minimally invasive surgery, which is also used for hip replacements, requires smaller incisions and a shorter recovery period. Evidence suggests candidates who are younger than 50 years old, are relatively thin and lack bone and joint deformity, have the best success with minimally invasive hip replacement surgery.

Patients who are very muscular or have medical conditions that may slow the healing process may be riskier candidates for the minimally invasive surgery.

Risks of hip replacement surgery

A hip replacement can relieve pain, improve walking and range of motion, and help the hip joint function more efficiently. Like any major surgery, hip replacements have some risks, such as infection and blood clots.

Signs of infection include pain, redness and swelling of the joint and fever. Another potential problem following surgery is hip dislocation. Dislocation occurs when the man-made hip is smaller than the joint, making it vulnerable to popping out of the socket. Sometimes inflammation causes deterioration of bone, and blood clots. Some patients’ legs may also be slightly different lengths following their surgery.

What is recovery like after surgery?

The rate of recovery and success of hip replacement surgery is determined by activity level, health, age, degree of joint deterioration and risk of infection. After surgery, patients should expect to spend a few days in the hospital and meet with a physical therapist.

Typically, patients can return to normal activity two or three months after their hip replacement surgery, but individuals with prosthetic hips are usually encouraged to avoid high-impact activity, like running and jumping.

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