Hip Replacement: Your Pressing Questions, Answered

People are living longer than ever and staying more active while they're at it. In fact, many are outliving some of their original body parts.  Hip replacement surgery is among the most commonly performed procedures in America. We know you have questions and we have your answers here.

1. How common is hip replacement surgery?

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 285,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States. While most candidates are between the ages of 50 and 80, patients much younger and older sometimes have their hip replaced too.

2. Why do people need their hip replaced?

The most common reason is because of arthritis, which wears away the protective lining and cartilage between the hip and pelvic bones. Osteoarthritis is usually the result of wear and tear, aging or overuse of the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflam joint damage as part of an autoimmune syndrome. Post-traumatic arthritis is caused by damage to hip cartilage from an injury or fracture. Childhood hip disease can cause arthritis later in life if the hip doesn't grow properly.

3. What symptoms would someone feel if they need a new hip?

Pain, stiffness and difficulty walking and moving are classic symptoms related to hip damage.  Many times these symptoms can be relieved with medication, physical therapy and assistive devices like elevated chairs and walkers. When those aren't effective however, a new hip can eliminate pain and help patients walk and move comfortably for decades.

4. How is the hip replaced?

The hip consists of a large ball-and-socket joint. The socket is formed by the acetabulum, which is part of the large pelvis bone. The ball is the femoral head, which is the upper end of the femur (thighbone).

During hip surgery, damaged bone and cartilage is removed from the hip joint and replaced with prosthetic components.  According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons surgery takes a few hours to remove the damaged cartilage and bone and then position new metal, plastic, or ceramic implants to restore the alignment and function of the hip.

5. How long will I be in the hospital?

You'll probably stay in the hospital for several days. During that time, you'll rest and recover from surgery, but you'll also start physical therapy and gentle exercise right away. Walking as soon as possible after surgery will encourage your hip to heal and help prevent complications like blood clots and pneumonia that can sometimes occur after any surgery.  You'll receive pain medication during your stay and after you go home.

6. How long before I'm completely recovered?

You can expect to be able to do most light activities of daily living, including gentle exercise within three to six weeks after surgery. You'll gradually be able to increase activities after that. 

7. Are there any risks associated with hip replacement?

All surgeries have risks associated with them, especially when general anesthesia is used. The biggest surgical risks include infection, blood clots and pneumonia. Other complications of hip replacement include the possibility of leg-length inequality (which can alter one's gait), hip dislocation (which is rare) and loosening or wear and tear (which occurs over time). 

8. How long does a replaced hip joint last?

On average, your new hip will last about twenty years. Some patients go several decades without needing a replacement. When your "new" hip wears out, your surgeon can replace it with another one. 

If you're considering hip replacement surgery, consult with an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the procedure and expect to be walking, running, swimming and dancing again in no time. 

Nathan Wei, MD, Rheumatologist of the Arthritis Treatment Center reviewed this article.


American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

Total Hip Replacement