Hip replacement surgery: what to expect from recovery

According to the analysis of our Joint Pain Matters report, more than two-thirds of respondents (68.88%) said joint pain has impacted their mental health. Joint pain wreaks havoc on people's lives, which is why considering your treatment options carefully is important.

If you are considering or have decided to have hip replacement surgery, it’s important to know what to expect from your recovery. Orthopaedic consultant Mr Nirav Shah, who specialises in hip surgery at BMI Goring Hall Hospital, shares his expertise

Who needs hip replacement surgery?

As we go through life, our joints can suffer from wear and tear. Over time this can lead to conditions that make the joint stiff or painful. The most common of these is osteoarthritis.

Other factors than can lead to deterioration or damage in the hip joint include trauma – for example from an accident – or abnormal bone growth, which can cause impingement.

There are also other types of arthritis, for example rheumatoid arthritis or septic arthritis, that can damage the hip joint.

If hip pain or reduced mobility are affecting your quality of life, stopping you from doing what you love or making it difficult to perform day-to-day activities, you may be recommended hip replacement surgery.

How do I know if I need hip replacement surgery?

A damaged or deteriorated hip joint does not necessarily mean you will need hip replacement surgery. There are other treatments available that will usually be suggested first.

For example, you might be recommended a course of physiotherapy or your consultant may recommend joint injections.1

A hip replacement is a common procedure but it’s still a major operation. I wouldn’t recommend this to my patient unless I thought it was the best option for their individual circumstances.

An orthopaedic specialist will be able to help you decide on the best course of action for you.

What does hip replacement surgery involve?


Hip replacement surgery involves replacing the worn out joint with an implant. The hip is a ball and socket joint and the implant or prosthesis will replicate this. Total hip replacement involves replacing the ball and socket. Partial hip replacement is much less common and involves replacing only the ball.

The operation will either be done under general anaesthetic, where you’re asleep, or using spinal anaesthetic, where you will be awake but numb from the waist down.1

There are various types of implant and the one you have will depend on your individual joint as well as your surgeon.

For example, my preference is to use an uncemented prosthesis with ceramic bearing. These have shown to result in much higher satisfaction rates than traditional metal-on-metal implants.

Studies suggest that the ceramic hip implant has greater longevity than traditional implants, meaning there is less chance you will need to have it replaced in the future (known as revision surgery).2

However, this may not be appropriate for every patient. During your consultation, you will be advised on the best option for your personal circumstances.

What are the possible risks and complications of hip replacement surgery?

Although serious complications are rare in total hip replacement procedures, any surgery does come with potential risks, including the very small risk of death. We have a duty of care to fully inform you of all the potential complications, even if remote. These can include:

  • Pain
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection
  • Unsightly scarring
  • Blood clots
  • Chest infection
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

There are also some potential complications specific to hip replacements, which include:

  • Split in the femur
  • Damage to nerves
  • Damage to blood vessels
  • Infection in the hip
  • Bone forming in muscles around the hip replacement
  • Loosening of the joint
  • Hip dislocation

Your consultant will discuss all these risks with you before performing surgery.1

How long will I be in hospital?

The average stay of hip replacement patients with BMI Healthcare is 2-3 days. However, it all depends on your individual circumstances and how quickly you start to recover.

Every person is carefully monitored, and you won’t be discharged until we’re completely happy that it’s safe.

Will I be in pain?

As with any major surgery, there will be some level of pain in the beginning. This is normal and we do everything we can to keep it under control.3

This pain will be what is known as ‘postoperative’ pain and is different to the pain you felt previously. The pain you had from your damaged hip joint (before surgery) should be gone.

We offer a variety of pain relief options to keep pain under control and make our patients as comfortable as possible.

It’s important to take the advice of your healthcare team regarding pain medication, not least because it will allow you to start moving – and recovering – as soon as possible.

Is rehabilitation necessary after hip replacement?


Rehabilitation through physiotherapy is a crucial element of hip replacement recovery. Without this, you may not achieve the full benefits.3

A physiotherapist will show you exercises to help regain your hip movement and strengthen your muscles post-surgery.

They will show you how to do them properly and give you advice on how regularly they should be done once you go home.

What is the timeline for recovery?

Again, this varies from person to person. Most people will need to use crutches for a number of weeks. It is normally after around 4-6 weeks that you will be able to walk without support.

Factors that affect recovery times include age, general fitness level and other health issues, and also how committed you are to following your physiotherapy routine.3

How long does it take to fully recover?

Full recovery can depend on the individual but on average my patients find they’re feeling back to normal and getting back to daily activities between six weeks and three months after surgery.

Still, full recovery can take between twelve and eighteen months.

What can I do to aid my recovery? Are there exercises that can help?

A personalised physiotherapy plan is provided to all patients. I would strongly advise you to stick to the physiotherapist’s recommendations and exercises, which will have been developed specifically for hip replacement recovery.

Make sure you don’t push yourself too hard at the beginning. Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337

or make an online enquiry.



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