What is hip replacement surgery?
If you’re suffering from chronic hip pain and persistent problems, hip replacement surgery may be the solution. A common type of surgery, a hip replacement is when the damaged or deteriorated hip joint is replaced with an artificial joint, called the prosthesis. The most common reason for hip replacement surgery is deterioration of the hip joint caused by osteoarthritis. Other causes can include rheumatoid arthritis, avascular necrosis and hip fractures.(1.)
How do you know if hip replacement surgery is needed?
Most hip pain problems won’t usually require surgery and can be effectively managed by non-invasive measures, such as painkillers, physiotherapy and joint injections. However, a hip replacement is often needed when these methods no longer work and the hip joint has become so damaged that it reduces mobility.
Living with chronic pain can greatly affect your quality of life. Not only can your sleep be affected, but carrying out simple day-to-day tasks, such as shopping, climbing stairs or getting in and out of the bath, can become very difficult. Your mood may also be low as a result of living in pain and your reduced mobility.
If you feel your hip pain prevents you from doing the things you want or need to do, then it may be time for a hip replacement.
What are the benefits of hip replacement surgery?
The main benefit of hip replacement surgery is to alleviate pain. Following a successful hip replacement, your hip function will improve and your mobility will increase. You will be able to move more freely without pain and have a better quality of life. Ultimately, you can get back to doing the things you love.
To see how a hip replacement can help you get back on track, watch Katie's story, a patient who had hip replacement surgery BMI Mount Alvernia Hospital. Katie’s new hip allowed her to go back to work and take up horse riding.
How is hip replacement surgery performed?
During your hip replacement surgery, you will be given anaesthetic which will numb your lower body. You will be given either general anaesthesia or an epidural. The operation usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half.
Your consultant surgeon will make an incision on the side of your hip and will completely remove the damaged ball and socket, which will then be replaced with an artificial joint. The new joint will be made of metal, plastic, ceramic or a combination of these materials.
How painful is hip replacement surgery?
There will be an element of pain following hip replacement surgery. However this will be managed by painkillers and is part of the natural recovery process. Any pain felt after surgery will be different from the pain you’ve been living with, for example, arthritis. The pain is no longer achy, but is due to the wound healing.
Once the initial swelling and discomfort has gone, any pain you feel should reduce day-by-day and you should start to feel the benefits of your new hip. Making sure you perform any recommended exercises is also important to your recovery and alleviating pain.
Are there any alternatives to hip replacement surgery?
There are certain things you can do to help manage hip pain. These include:
- Over-the-counter pain medication
- Supplements. However, it’s important to check with your doctor before taking any
- Complementary therapies, such as acupuncture and massage therapy
- Joint injection therapy
- Walking aids
- A small shoe raise
- Regular moderate exercise to help reduce stiffness
Another alternative to surgery is a hip resurfacing. This requires removing only the damaged parts of the bone and replacing them with metal. However, if your hip has drastically deteriorated for example, because of arthritis, and these methods are no longer effective, then surgery is probably the most appropriate option.
How long does a hip replacement last?
A modern artificial hip should have a life span of at least 15 years . Although hip replacements are designed to last a long time, the materials used to make the artificial joint can wear out. A number of factors can also contribute to how long your new hip lasts, such as age, weight, activities and medical complications.
What are the possible risks and complications of hip replacement surgery?
Any surgery has a potential risk of complications. These can include:
- Excessive bleeding
- Infection in the surgical wound
- Unsightly scarring
- Blood clotting
- Chest infection
- Difficulty passing urine
- Heart attack
Specific complications of a hip replacement surgery 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
Although serious complications of hip replacement surgery are uncommon, all of the potential risks will be discussed in full with your consultant surgeon prior to your surgery.
How long does it take to recover from a hip replacement?
Everyone’s recovery is different and individual to the patient. There are various factors that can impact on recovery, such as age, general health, muscle strength and the condition of other joints. However, most people make a good recovery with less pain and improved mobility.
Once you’ve had hip replacement surgery, you should be able to go home after four to seven days. To aid your recovery, you’ll probably need to use crutches or walking sticks for a few weeks. After three months, you should feel back to normal and be able to fully return to your normal everyday activities. It can take between 12-18 months to make a full recovery.
Regular gentle exercise should help you to return to normal activities, but before you start exercising you should ask a member of your healthcare team for advice.
It’s important to remember that an artificial hip never feels quite the same as a normal hip. However, if you look after your new hip properly and follow the advice of your healthcare team, you should go back to living a relatively pain-free life.