Total Hip Replacement

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Total hip replacement facts

  • The prostheses for a total hip replacement (total hip arthroplasty) can be inserted into the pelvis and femur with or without cement. The options are customized for each patient by the orthopedic surgeon.
  • chronic pain and impairment of daily function of patients with severe hip arthritis are reasons for considering treatment with total hip replacement.
  • Complications and risks of total hip replacement surgery have been identified.
  • Preoperative banking of the blood of patients planning total hip replacement is considered when possible.
  • Physical therapy is an essential part of rehabilitation after a total hip replacement.
  • Patients with artificial joints are generally recommended to take antibiotics before, during, and after any elective invasive procedures (including dental work).

What is a total hip replacement?

A total hip replacement is a surgical procedure whereby the diseased cartilage and bone of the hip joint is surgically replaced with artificial materials. The normal hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The socket is a "cup-shaped" component of the pelvis called the acetabulum. The ball is the head of the thighbone (femur). Total hip joint replacement involves surgical removal of the diseased ball and socket and replacing them with a metal (or ceramic) ball and stem inserted into the femur bone and an artificial plastic (or ceramic) cup socket. The metallic artificial ball and stem are referred to as the "femoral prosthesis" and the plastic cup socket is the "acetabular prosthesis." Upon inserting the prosthesis into the central core of the femur, it is fixed with a bony cement called methylmethacrylate. Alternatively, a "cementless" prosthesis is used that has microscopic pores which allow bony ingrowth from the normal femur into the prosthesis stem. This "cementless" hip is felt to have a longer duration and is considered especially for younger patients.

Who is a candidate for total hip replacement?

Total hip replacements are performed most commonly because of progressively worsening of severe arthritis in the hip joint. The most common type of arthritis leading to total hip replacement is degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) of the hip joint. This type of arthritis is generally seen with aging, congenital abnormality of the hip joint, or prior trauma to the hip joint. Other conditions leading to total hip replacement include bony fractures of the hip joint, rheumatoid arthritis, and death (aseptic necrosis, or avascular necrosis) of the hip bone. Hip bone necrosis can be caused by fracture of the hip, drugs (such as prednisone and prednisolone), alcoholism, and systemic diseases (such as systemic lupus erythematosus).

The progressively intense chronic pain together with impairment of daily function including walking, climbing stairs, and even arising from a sitting position, eventually become reasons to consider a total hip replacement. Because replaced hip joints can fail with time, whether and when to perform total hip replacement are not easy decisions, especially in younger patients. Replacement is generally considered after pain becomes so severe that it impedes normal function despite use of anti-inflammatory and/or pain medications. A total hip joint replacement is an elective procedure, which means that it is an option selected among other alternatives. It is a decision that is made with an understanding of the potential risks and benefits. A thorough understanding of both the procedure and anticipated outcome is an important part of the decision-making process with the orthopedic surgeon.

Picture of total hip replacement
Picture of total hip replacement
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/15/2014

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Learn how to prevent a broken hip with hip protectors.

Hip Fracture Prevention - Hip Protectors

Breaking the bones of the hip (hip fracture) is common in the elderly. This is a result of two major factors that affect older people: (1) an increased risk of falling because of poor stability (from a decrease in muscle, joint, and nerve function) and poor vision; and (2) weak bones that break easily because of osteoporosis.

It has been estimated that 250,000 (a quarter of a million) people in the United States suffer hip fractureseach year!

A hip fracture is a terrible injury. It typically requires major surgery for repair. Operations involve either metal pinning with screws and/or plates or replacement of the hip joint with artificial parts. These operations can be complicated by infections, blood clotting, bleeding, and failure of the repair work. After such a surgical procedure, long and aggressive rehabilitation programs are necessary for optimal success. For the very frail, elderly person, ultimate recovery can be extremely difficult and long-term loss of independence, nursing-home placement, and even death can result.

Prevention of hip fractures is a key part of caring for the health of the elderly. Elderly people can take measures to decrease their own risk for hip fractures. These measures include participating in regular, proper exercise, "clearing the runway" in homes for walkingand transferring, undergoing regular general and eye-healthcheckups, and addressing osteoporosis (bone-density exams, calcium and vitamin Dintake, and osteoporosis medications when indicated).