Hip Replacement Surgery: What to Expect

Most people don’t realize how much their hips do for them until they have a hip injury. That one simple joint allows us to perform all our most basic activities — walking, standing and even sitting. If your hip has been damaged by an injury, arthritis or other health condition, it affects everything you do. Walking, getting in and out of a chair, and even resting can be difficult and painful.

When to Consider Hip Replacement Surgery

If you have hip pain that worsens with walking, interferes with sleep or makes it difficult to stand from a seated position, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may suggest methods such as taking medicine, using walking supports or changing daily activities to help relieve your symptoms. If your pain doesn’t lessen with these attempts, it may be time to talk about surgery. Typically, your doctor will refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for an initial evaluation.

Health Conditions That May Affect Your Hips

Sometimes people need hip replacements because of an injury, but often they need surgery because of damage caused by a health condition. Some conditions that may damage your hips include:

  • Osteoarthritis damages the slick cartilage that covers the ends of bones and helps joints move smoothly.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an overactive immune system. It produces inflammation that can erode bone and cartilage and deform joints.
  • Osteonecrosis can lead to inadequate blood supply to the ball portion of the hip joint, causing the bone to collapse and deform.

Good Candidates for Hip Replacement

Not everyone is a good candidate for total hip replacement. Your surgeon can help you determine if surgery is right for you. There’s no specific age or weight limit, but being physically fit and maintaining an ideal body weight lowers your risk for complications.

Generally, hip replacement surgery is safe and effective in getting you back to enjoying everyday activities. However, just like all invasive surgeries, there’s a possibility of complications. Blood clots, infection, bone fracture during surgery, hip dislocation, change in leg length, and the need for a second hip replacement are all possibilities you should be aware of when considering surgery.

How Total Hip Replacement Surgery Is Performed

In a total hip replacement surgery, the damaged bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with prosthetic components. Here’s what you can expect:

  • The damaged femoral head is removed from the upper end of the femur bone, giving the surgeon access to the socket.
  • The socket is prepared to accept a titanium metal shell. The shell is implanted into the bony socket. The surface of the shell is designed to allow the bone to grow to the shell.
  • A polyethylene liner or “insert” is placed inside the shell. Inserts are available in various shapes and sizes to allow for the best reproduction of the anatomy of your hip.
  • The hollow canal of the femur bone is prepared to accept a titanium stem.
  • A “head ball,” usually made of ceramic, is attached to the top of the stem.
  • The joint is then “reduced,” allowing the new head ball to articulate with the new socket surface.

Planning for Your Recovery

If you decide that hip replacement surgery is right for you, you’ll need to develop a plan for your recovery.

Things to consider include:

  • What modifications should I make to my home to make it easier to navigate while I’m recovering?
  • Who will drive me home from my surgery and to my follow-up appointments and physical therapy sessions?
  • Who will help with wound care and help me get around during my recovery?

Having a plan for your recovery following surgery will provide you peace of mind so you can fully focus on your physical therapy and healing.

Emory Healthcare

Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center specialists are world-renowned for innovation, research, and training in surgical and nonsurgical treatment of hip conditions. If you’re considering hip replacement surgery, schedule a consultation today.