The largest weight-bearing joint in the body is the hip. Problems can be caused by osteoarthritis, trauma, and repetitive stress, and can result in back pain, burning, swelling, and limited mobility. Hip issues can cause problems downstream. For instance a painful hip may cause the knee to overcompensate and become damaged or painful. Hip replacement surgery is considered after lifestyle changes and pain management therapy. Restoring range of motion, function, reducing pain and returning the person to a normal active life is the goal of surgery.
Persons who have experienced trauma, repeated bouts of osteoarthritis and athletes may qualify for surgery. An orthopedic physician will evaluate the patient’s complaints, past injuries, occupation, gait-related problems, posture, and exercise habits. He will ask the patient whether specific movements or activities make the pain worse, and investigate any other unusual conditions like diabetes, obesity, or adverse work conditions. Imaging tests and blood tests may be done. Genetics, age, and gender factors will be considered.
The patient will be treated over time, given pain medication, and advised to participate in a variety of low-impact exercise to strengthen muscles around the joint. Surgery is considered a treatment option when the patient’s pain becomes unmanageable, all other options are exhausted, and lifestyle is seriously impaired. Most hip replacement surgeries are performed on individuals from 60-80 years of age.
Surgery has Changed
Surgical procedures have changed over the years. Now, smaller incisions can be made, either in the front or the back, 4 inches or less. The least invasive procedure is chosen using specialized techniques and instrumentation. Muscles, bones and the joint capsule are preserved and repaired which makes the joint more stable. Pain is lessened with minimally invasive procedures. Recovery time is decreased when less tissue structures are violated and a better range of motion is realized with less scar tissue forming.
Your hip replacement surgery will take a few hours. You will be anaesthetized and the surgeon will remove the failing cartilage and bone and replace it with a prostheses. The implant will be made of metal and/or ceramic. It will adhere to the bone with cement or be placed or texturized in a way so as not to need cement, but instead allows your bone to fuse with the implant. Your incision will be closed and you will begin your recovery.
Recovery time is brief as physicians want the patient to be up and moving as soon as possible. The hospital stay may be only 3 days, and within a week or two the patient can be riding a stationary bike. In 3-6 months the bones should have completed the healing process and the patient is encouraged to exercise during that time.
Saturday Evening Post, A Step in the Right Direction, 2005, Patrick Perry
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Hip Replacement