Hip replacement is an operation in which degenerating parts of the hip joint are replaced with prosthetic ones made from metal and plastic. The following are several important things you need to know about this operation:
- Around 300,000 hip replacement operations are done in the US each year. The main function of this major operation is to eradicate pain and improve the patient’s quality of life.
- Osteoarthritis is the most common reason that patients have hip replacements. This condition is caused by wear and tear of the hip joint and it causes pain when walking. This pain is usually not relieved by medications, physical therapy, joint lubricants or cortisone injections.
- Other conditions that affect the hip and necessitate hip replacements include trauma, inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis and osteonecrosis, which develops when the bone cells die due to inadequate blood supply. Children with developmental dysplasia of the hip also tend to have this operation when they become adults.
- Most hip replacements are done on seniors because they are prone to developing degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis and fragility fractures from osteoporosis. Person in their 20s and 30s can also require hip replacements if they have conditions like osteonecrosis, hip dysplasia and severe rheumatoid arthritis.
- When planning to have a hip replacement, the two most important things to take into consideration are the hospital and the surgeon. An experienced orthopedic surgeon who has done many hip replacement procedures is a good choice.
- Many surgeons currently prefer the anterior (frontal) hip approach when doing the hip replacement operation because it is said to have faster recovery as less muscle is damaged. However, there are no studies to support that it is better than other approaches like the posterior-lateral approach.
- Most orthopedic surgeons advise against replacing both hips at the same time because of the high medical risks involved. These risks include blood clots, infections and other cardiovascular and pulmonary risks. If a patient needs to have both knees replaced, it is generally recommended that they have one operation and recover before going for the next one. Blood clots which develop after the operation can be prevented by ensuring the patient is mobile as soon as possible and giving them blood thinning medications. Infections can be prevented by taking antibiotics after the operation and before having dental work.
- Hip replacement surgery operations can take from 1 to 3 hours. During the procedure the surgeon uses a surgical-grade power saw and drill to cut through the original hip bone. They then ream out the cartilage from the hip socket and reshape the socket before inserting the prosthesis. The prosthesis is attached with epoxy cement or with a mesh that the bone can grow into.
- Hip replacement is done under general anesthesia and most patients spend around an hour in the recovery room after the operation. Once they wake up, they are helped to move around with a walker. Pain medications are initially administered in a medicine pump before being changed to tablets taken by mouth. Most patients are discharged within a few days after the operation. Once at home they need special equipment like a walker and a special toilet to keep them from bending their hips past 90 degrees.
- Around 6 to 8 weeks after the hip replacement operation, most patients are still going through physical therapy and generally feeling pretty good. Some may resume work around this time though it may take up to 3 months before they resume all their normal activities.
- With time the prosthetic hips feel natural that most people forget they were not born with them. Doctors recommend low impact exercises like swimming, water aerobics and cycling to help them remain active. However they should avoid high impact exercises since they can wear down the new joints.
- Despite these few limitations, many patients are happy after hip replacement operations since they get a new lease of life as they are once again able to move without pain. They also regain flexibility and the ability to do activities like bending to pick a flower and sitting on the floor to play with grandchildren.
- Hip replacements currently last for about 15 to 20 years. This means that patients in their 40s who undergo this operation may need another one later on in their life. However, with ongoing research and innovations like the biologic hip replacements, it is suspected that future joint replacements will last for more than 60 years.
Written by: Marian Kim, FizzNiche Staff Writer