Total Hip Replacement Fundamentals

Total hip replacement (or hip arthroplasty) is a technique that has become widespread in recent years in response to the need for improving hip joints that have been damaged by injury or arthritis. Joint replacement surgery may offer the best treatment option for long-term improvement for the hip joint when other treatments have proven inadequate. In most cases, having a total hip replacement reduces joint pain and means a return to pain-free movement.

What causes hip pain?

The human hip is a ball and socket joint. It is the most flexible and free-moving joint in the body, and can move backwards and forwards, to the side, and can perform twisting motions. Full function of the hip is dependent on the coordination of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.

Hip pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Download a Free Guide on Hip Pain Treatment

  • An injury that does not heal properly.
  • A chronic illness.
  • Normal wear and tear from years of constant use.
  • Severe arthritic conditions, especially osteoarthritis.
  • Injuries as a result of trauma, such as a hip fracture or dislocation caused by a fall.

If hip replacement surgery is the best treatment option for you, your physician will refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon with expertise in this procedure. Your orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate your hip joint with a full physical exam and X-rays and develop a treatment plan about how surgery can best benefit you. Your surgeon will also ask you about any past medical problems.

What are the benefits of hip replacement?

Relief from pain is the greatest benefit and the major reason for hip replacement surgery. The procedure offers other benefits, such as:

  • Improved movement, strength and coordination of the torso and leg.
  • The ability to walk, climb stairs and maintain an active lifestyle in greater comfort.

What are the risks of surgery?

There are possible risks and complications that may happen through hip replacement surgery associated with anesthesia, including respiratory or cardiac malfunction. Other complications include:

  • Blood clots
  • Infection
  • Injury to nerves and blood vessels
  • Fracture
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness or instability of the joint
  • Need for additional surgeries
  • Dislocation

Patients at increased risk for complications are those with severe rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus. In addition, patients with insulin-dependent (type 1) diabetes, malnourishment, hemophilia, or those who have had previous prosthetic joint infections are at higher risk. Make sure to contact your orthopaedic surgeon immediately, if you experience any of these problems after surgery.

Joint replacements do not last forever, usually 10-15 years. Hip revision surgery may become necessary when an artificial hip becomes painful. Learn more information on hip revision surgery.

Several variables affect the ultimate success of hip replacement surgery. These include the strength of the patient’s bones and muscles and his or her general health and lifestyle. Commitment to a rehabilitation program is also an important part of the recovery process, since improvement to the hip joint is determined by the patient’s rehabilitation effort.

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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