A Guide to Partial Replacement of the Hip Joint: Preparation, Procedure and Recovery
written by: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
• edited by: Emma Lloyd
• updated: 6/12/2010
If you are experiencing frequent hip pain and impaired mobility, talk to your doctor about treatment options. He or she may recommend conservative treatments, such as physical therapy or medication. You could also be a candidate for a total or partial hip replacement.
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Your hip is an important ball-and-socket joint that connects the top of your thighbone and a pelvic bone called the acetabulum. A partial hip replacement may be performed for a number of reasons. It may become damaged because of a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, sports injury or a fall. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can affect the integrity of the bone. Or, the hip joint may be affected by osteonecrosis, a disease characterized by insufficient blood supply.
Your doctor will help you evaluate your symptoms and determine if surgery is the best option for you.
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Benefits of Surgery
Tell your doctor if your hip problems are interfering with the quality of your life and your daily routines. Evaluate whether more conservative treatments are helping or not - such as pain medication and walking aids (walkers or canes). Successful surgeries can drastically ease your pain and improve your mobility. After surgery, you may have an easier time walking up and down the stairs, or rising from a seated position. You may also be able to resume activities you enjoyed before your hip trouble.
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Risks of Surgery
Balance the potential benefits of a partial hip replacement with the potential risks. Although this type of procedure is typically safe, some complications may occur. For example, you may develop a blood clot during your recovery time. You also run the risk of an infection at the incision area or even in the new hip joint (prosthesis) itself. If the prosthesis is infected, your surgeon may operate again to replace it. You may also experience joint stiffening or loosening, or a worn-out prosthesis. These problems may be alleviated with simple adjustments or a replacement prosthesis.
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To prepare for surgery, talk to your doctor about all other medical conditions you may have, including allergies. Discuss any medications you take. You may need to discontinue certain medications for a period of time before the procedure. Your doctor will also conduct a physical exam and may order tests, such as blood tests and an x-ray to prepare for the surgery.
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For the partial hip replacement procedure itself, you will likely be rendered unconscious with a general anesthetic. You will not feel any pain. An incision will be made over your hip, through which the surgeon will remove damaged or diseased cartilage and bone. For partial hip replacements, as opposed to total hip replacements, the healthy part of the joint will be left intact. A prosthesis is put into the place of the diseased material. Usually, for most partial hip replacement procedures, the top of the thighbone, or femur, is replaced.
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Recovering From Surgery
The length of time you stay in the hospital after your surgery depends on your general health, the outcome of the surgery and your doctor's recommendations. Typically, you may be hospitalized for three to five days. However, your doctor will advise you not to lie in the hospital bed the entire time. To help avoid blood clots, you are encouraged to walk around with a walking aid as soon as possible. This may be the next day after surgery. Expect to take blood-thinning medications and pain medications. You will also wear compression garments on your legs, which reduces the possibility of blood clots.
You will also likely work with a physical therapist before you are discharged. She can help you learn to walk with a walking aid and will prescribe some simple exercises for you to work on at home. This will help your recovery.
You may be able to resume some light activities about six to eight weeks following the surgery, however each patient should follow the advice of the doctor. When you first go home, have someone stay with you to help you cook and take care of yourself. Even after you are beginning to move about more normally, refrain from strenuous activities, barring the approval of your doctor.