Hip Replacement

Barry T. Bickley, MD
Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon

Hip replacement is a highly successful surgical procedure to treat people who suffer from severe hip pain.

The ideal candidate
Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or a serious hip injury or fracture are common causes of hip pain. Ideal candidates for hip replacement surgery usually experience severe pain that keeps them awake at night, pain that cannot be relieved with medication, or have trouble walking and maneuvering stairs. Each year more than 190,000 total hip replacements are performed throughout the United States .

The mechanics of a hip replacement
Our hip is the body's largest weight-bearing joint and consists of a ball attached to the upper thighbone. The ball fits into a socket nestled in the pelvis bone. Ligaments and muscles connect the ball to the socket and stabilize the joint. A total hip replacement mimics the hip joint using manmade materials, such as cobalt-chrome, titanium or ceramic to recreate the ball and socket.

During a total hip replacement, the surgeon removes the worn ball at the upper end of the thighbone and the surface layer of the socket. The surgeon replaces the socket with a cup, where the ball will rest inside. The surgeon replaces the ball by hollowing part of the thighbone and inserting the ball with a stem into the hollowed area. The ball and stem look similar to a scepter. The handle of the scepter, or stem, rests inside the thighbone and the ball tilts either left or right to fit inside the socket. Depending upon the patient's overall health and age, the surgeon may use cement to secure the stem into the thighbone or opt to use a porous-like material that allows the thighbone to grow into the stem.

Post-surgical recovery
Patients who have had a total hip replacement usually spend three to five days in the hospital. Physical therapists and caregivers encourage patients to sit up or try walking with crutches or a walker the day after surgery to facilitate healing. Before going home, patients receive information about caring for the wound and home exercises to strengthen the joint. The surgeon will evaluate the wound and progress six to eight weeks after surgery. Full recovery can take three to six months, depending upon a patient's health and rehabilitation.

Planning for a home recovery before the surgery is important. Purchase a raised toilet seat and a shower bench. Place frequently used items in accessible areas and make sure all handrails along stairways and in the bathroom are secure. Ask a family member or friend to stay a few days to help with daily tasks and prepare meals.

If you or a loved one experience severe hip pain, talk to your doctor or orthopedic surgeon about a total hip replacement. This procedure has a 90 percent success rate and significantly improves quality of life.