Hip Replacement

Introduction

A hip replacement is a common type of surgery where the damaged hip joint is replaced with an artificial one.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint and is one of the largest joints in the human body. The purpose of the hip joint is to support the upper body and is used in everyday activities such as standing and walking.

In a healthy hip joint the bones are connected to each other by ligaments which are lubricated allowing movement without friction. The surfaces of the bones are covered in a smooth cartilage allowing them to slide over each other and support the joint.

However, the cartilage can be damaged and worn out, resulting in the joint becoming inflamed and irritated. This then leads to pain and discomfort for the sufferer.

Many hip conditions are age-related and hip replacements are usually carried out on adults aged between 60 and 80.

Symptoms

The cartilage will begin to wear away resulting in the top of the femur bone rubbing directly on the socket. This will erode the bone and make the hip extremely uncomfortable and painful.

Patients may experience:

  • A stiff and painful hip
  • Problems performing everyday activities such as walking, driving, getting dressed

The purpose of undergoing a hip replacement is to relieve pain and to improve the function of your hip. The new hip joint will increase mobility and improve the quality of everyday life.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Initially, it is important to try the nonsurgical measures that are available before surgical treatment is sought.

  • Painkillers
  • Glucosamine (provides nutrition for the remaining cartilage)
  • Cushioned footwear
  • Losing weight can reduce the strain on the hip joint and may reduce the damage if you are overweight
  • Physiotherapy can help to strengthen core muscles and improve control of the hip socket

Surgical Treatment

If the above procedures fail to alleviate the pain and discomfort, then a hip replacement can be considered.

A hip replacement can be carried out under a general anesthetic or an epidural. The surgeon will make an incision into the hip and remove the damaged joint. The damaged hip will then be replaced with an artificial joint that is usually a metal alloy.

The surgery usually takes between an hour and an hour and a half to complete.

A modern artificial hip is designed to last for about 15 years and then revision surgery may be needed. It is estimated that 1 in 10 people with an artificial hip will require later surgery.

Following surgery, there is a gradual recovery programme designed to help your new hip adjust to your body.

For the first month, a walking aid will be needed such as crutches for support and comfort.

Exercises are then introduced in the main form of physiotherapy. These exercises will focus on building the strength of the quadriceps, gluteal and hamstring muscles.

Hydrotherapy can also be useful to reduce stiffness and to enhance mobility.