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What is hip replacement?

Hip replacement, also known as arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure to repair a hip damaged by arthritis or a severe injury. Artificial joints made of metals, ceramics or plastics are used to help your hips move and function naturally. Hip replacement is usually done when hip pain cannot be relieved by other treatments.

This type of surgery is often recommended to people with painful conditions of the hip that have not responded to more conservative nonsurgical treatments. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) reports that more than 285,000 people undergo total hip replacement surgery (known as arthroplasty) each year.

Why it's done

Hip replacement is done to decrease hip pain—making it easier to walk, exercise and enjoy other activities without pain.

Hip replacement surgery is usually used to treat:

  • Osteoarthritis—The most common arthritis that affects the hip, osteoarthritis is caused by the slow and steady degeneration and thinning of the smooth articulate cartilage that covers the surfaces of the hip joint. Healthy cartilage makes it possible for hip joints to have a normal, pain-free range of motion and function that allows them to glide smoothly in their sockets. When osteoarthritis develops, it breaks down the cartilage and narrows the space in which the joints move, causing pain, inflammation and limited range of motion. Osteoarthritis can interfere with your ability to work, as well as limit your daily activities and quality of life. The hip and the knee are the joints most affected by osteoarthritis because they help carry our body weight. As a result, they are prime candidates for the slow and steady wear and tear of this potentially debilitating joint disease.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis—This type of arthritis is one of more than 100 rheumatic diseases (diseases that affect the joints and their connective tissues such as muscles, tendons and ligaments). It is a chronic autoimmune, systemic disease that can cause inflammation of multiple joints in your body. Autoimmune diseases occur when your body is attacked by its own immune system. Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can become so severe that the joints are swollen and deformed, making it difficult to move them.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis—This type of arthritis can develop years after a hip injury or fracture, even if you received the proper treatment for the injury and fully recovered from it.
  • Avascular necrosis—A hip injury like a dislocation or fracture may limit the blood supply to the femoral head (the end of the thighbone that is part of the hip joint). This is called avascular necrosis. The lack of blood may cause the bone surface to collapse, resulting in arthritis. Some diseases can also cause avascular necrosis.
  • Childhood hip disease—Some infants and children have hip problems. Even though the problems may have been treated successfully at the time, they still may cause arthritis later in life. This happens because the hip may not grow normally and the joint surfaces are affected.

What to expect

In a total hip replacement surgery (also called total hip arthroplasty), your surgeon removes the damaged bone and cartilage and replaces them with prosthetic components.

When you arrive in the operating room, you will be greeted by your surgeon, a nurse, an anesthesiologist and a physician assistant. The anesthesiologist may recommend general, regional or spinal anesthesia depending on your individual needs. He or she will closely monitor you during your surgery.

After surgery is completed, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU or recovery room).

The surgeon or member of the surgical team will contact your family in the surgical waiting room when the surgery is completed.

  • You will be monitored by specially trained nurses in the PACU for two to three hours or longer, if needed.
  • When you are fully awake and your blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respirations return to normal, you will be moved to a regular room on the Orthopedic Unit, an area with specially trained nursing staff.
  • Every effort will be made to provide your family with the most current information about your condition.
    • Your family will be permitted to visit you for a short period of time depending on how you are feeling.
    • Your family will be told when you are ready to be transferred to the Orthopedic Unit.

If your family leaves before your surgery is completed, a contact number should be left for the surgeon to call.

Recovery

After hip replacement surgery, you need to protect your new hip and understand how it will influence the way you perform your daily activities. Your occupational therapist (OT) will assist you in regaining your independence in activities of daily living. Your physical therapist (PT) will educate and train you to move safely with an assistive device, navigate obstacles and avoid falls.

Before leaving the hospital, your surgeon and healthcare team will discuss your rehabilitation options with you and your family. We encourage you to select the rehabilitation option that best meets your needs for a successful recovery.

Each person recovers from joint surgery differently and at a different rate. However, the majority of patients are discharged home with follow-up home care services.


dear doctor
Getting back in the saddle—without triggering pain.

true story
How a hip replacement gave one surgeon a new perspective on his work.

Patient story

Hear one woman's experience

Kelly is an active woman in who enjoys running, biking and playing soccer. When hip pain began threatening her favorite activities, she turned to us for help. Hear her story below from both her and her doctor. 

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