Hip replacement (arthroplasty) is an orthopedic surgical procedure that realigns and reshapes the ball and socket hip joint and replaces the damaged joint with a prosthetic implant. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), there are 120,000 hip replacement operations performed annually in the U.S.

Hip Joint Damage

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of hip arthritis and is the main reason why people get hip replacements, especially seniors. A November 2012 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that one in four people will develop symptomatic hip osteoarthritis by age 85. As a result of osteoarthritis, pain and joint stiffness occurs and then cartilage breaks down, which causes bones to rub together.

The following medical conditions also contribute to hip joint issues, which can lead patients to undergo hip replacement surgery:

Broken hip
Bone tumor
Rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic disease that severely inflames joints and tissue
Osteonecrosis – death of bone cells due to lack of blood flow which causes bone collapse
Benefits of Hip Replacement Surgery

If pain becomes debilitating and walking becomes difficult, your doctor may recommend hip replacement surgery. The biggest benefit of surgery is an overall better quality of life. The Arthritis Foundationstates that joint replacement surgery relieves patients’ pain and increases joint flexibility.

Types of Hip Replacement Implants

Dependent upon the severity of joint damage, you have options when it comes to hip replacement surgery:

Total hip replacement – the damaged sections of the hip joint (the ball and socket) are removed and replaced with metal, ceramic, or plastic (or a combination of these components).

Total hip resurfacing – the ball is not removed and is then trimmed and is capped with a smooth metal covering. Just like a total hip replacement, damaged cartilage and bone are first removed and then replaced with a metal shell.

According to The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) there are four different types of implants used for hip replacements:

Metal on Metal: Both the ball and socket are metal.

Metal on Polyethylene: The ball is metal, and the socket is made out of polythene (plastic) or has polyethylene lining.

Ceramic on Ceramic: The ball is ceramic, and the socket contains a ceramic lining.

Ceramic on Polyethylene: The ball is ceramic, and the socket is made out of polyethylene (plastic) or has polyethylene lining.

What Happens After Hip Replacement Surgery?

After surgery, your follow-up care is important for a successful recovery. The University of Minnesota’s Orthpaedic Surgery Department recommends that, in order to avoid injury after surgery, it’s important to slowly introduce walking. With the help of a physical therapist, you will learn rehabilitative exercises to reduce hip stiffness and improve muscle strength.

It’s also important to carefully follow your doctor’s and physical therapist’s instructions in order to heal properly. If you are an active person, you won’t be able to immediately jump back into vigorous exercise. If you put too much weight on your hip or engage in extreme physical activity too soon, you risk hip dislocation or implant failure. As a result, the ball and socket loosens which causes complications and pain, and could require a second surgery to correct or replace the implant.

Hip Replacement Risks

Any medical procedure, including hip replacement surgery, comes with potential risks. Before you decide if hip replacement is right for you, be aware of the possible risks involved (especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions).

Blood clots and/or excessive bleeding

Increased risk of heart attack
Negative reaction to anesthesia