What is hip resurfacing?

Hip resurfacing is a type of hip replacement surgery. It relieves arthritis pain in the hip. An orthopaedic surgeon (bone and joint specialist) performs the procedure.

How do hip joints work?

Your hip is a ball-and-socket joint that is part of the skeletal system. It includes the:

  • Hip socket (acetabulum).
  • Ball-shaped head of the upper thighbone (femoral head).

What causes hip pain?

Cartilage covers the hip ball-and-socket joint. This tissue cushions bones so they can move together with ease. Arthritis can wear down cartilage in the hip joint. Over time, bone rubs against bone, causing pain and limiting movement.

How does hip resurfacing work?

Hip resurfacing involves trimming damaged bone and cartilage from the ball and socket. Your surgeon places a smooth metal cap on top of the trimmed thighbone. A metal shell goes into the hip socket. These two metal components move together, allowing for painless, fluid motion.

What’s the difference between hip resurfacing and hip replacement?

It’s as different as putting on a hat, or cutting off your head.

During hip resurfacing, your surgeon trims away small amounts of damaged cartilage and bone. You keep almost all the bone in your thigh and hip socket.

With hip replacement, a surgeon removes the entire head of the thighbone and replaces it with a metal stem, which is inserted down into the thigh bone (femur). A metal or ceramic ball secures to the top of the stem. This implant fits into a new metal hip socket, usually with a plastic liner.

Who benefits from hip resurfacing?

Hip resurfacing can ease hip pain from osteoarthritis. Hip pain is often felt in the groin, and sometimes in the buttock or the side of the hip. Your healthcare provider may recommend the procedure if hip pain doesn’t improve with nonsurgical treatments.

Hip resurfacing isn’t right for everybody. People older than 65 shouldn’t get the procedure. Hip replacement works fine in the elderly. This age group is more likely to have weaker bones (osteoporosis), which can complicate both hip resurfacing and hip replacement.

Candidates for hip resurfacing typically are:

  • Younger, active men, with strong, healthy bones.
  • Women do not do as well as men, and are rarely resurfaced.
  • The average age for hip resurfacing is the early 50’s.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/14/2020.


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