If you’re considering hip replacement surgery, there are many factors you need to keep in mind. You should discuss each of them with your doctor so that you can make an informed decision.
1. What Is Hip Replacement Surgery?
It’s important to understand exactly what this surgery entails. The hip joint is very similar to a “ball and socket,” with the “ball” part of the joint situated at the top of the femur or leg bone, and the “socket” part of the joint located in the pelvic bone. Normally, the bone portion of the joint is protected by cartilage, which allows the joint to move smoothly. However, in individuals with osteoarthritis, the cartilage can become damaged and wear down. This can cause the joint to become stiff and very painful. In a hip replacement surgery, the damaged joint is replaced by a prosthetic one. The surgeon will remove the ball portion of the femur and reshape the socket portion of the pelvic bone, allowing for the corresponding prosthetic parts to be attached. Most prosthetics used at present are made from metal and plastic.
There are also different methods of approaching this surgery. Traditionally, the surgeon makes a large incision along the side of the hip to gain access to the joint. More recently though, some doctors have begun to perform a minimally invasive version of the surgery, in which one or two smaller incisions are made. This process takes longer but often heals more quickly. However, complications can occur, so it is extremely important that your surgeon has experience in performing a total hip replacement.
2. Are You A Good Candidate?
Another important consideration should be whether or not you are a good candidate for hip replacement surgery. Usually, this surgery is reserved as a last resort. Other treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and weight loss should be considered before surgery becomes an option.
It’s also important to consider your age. If you are in your 50s or younger, one of the biggest concerns is that the replacement joint will wear out too quickly. Currently used replacements generally last from 15 to 20 years. There are new materials being tested, but we simply do not yet know how long they will last.
3. What Are the Risks?
As with any medical procedure, there are potential risks involved with undergoing one. These may include the following:
- Anesthesia: there is always a small risk of complication when anesthesia is administered, such as a blood clot, heart attack, or stroke.
- Infection: there is also the possibility of infection occurring at the incision site or within the deeper tissue around the joint.
- Damage: since the hip joint is surrounded by a variety of muscles, ligaments, veins, and nerves, there is a small chance that these may become damaged during surgery.
- Uneven legs: surgery can sometimes result in the corresponding leg becoming longer or shorter than the other. However, some patients experiencing this sensation simply need to readjust to the feeling of having a healthy joint.
While it’s important to understand and take these complications into consideration, it’s also important to note that most patients who undergo a total hip replacement experience a good outcome. Discuss the possibilities with your doctor so that even if you do experience a complication, you know how to identify it immediately and seek medical help.
4. What Is Recovery Like?
While the chance of complication is small, total hip replacement is still major surgery and requires ample recovery time. Physical therapy will usually begin very soon after surgery and may last weeks to months.
A total hip replacement is a common procedure that can potentially change your life. By discussing all aspects of the surgery, you and your doctor will be able to make the best decision for you based on your individual health and lifestyle.