Hip replacement, or arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which the diseased parts of the hip joint are removed and replaced with new, artificial parts. These artificial parts are called the prosthesis. The goals of hip replacement surgery include increasing mobility, improving the function of the hip joint, and relieving pain.
A hip replacement is a common type of surgery where a damaged hip joint is replaced with an artificial one (known as a prosthesis).
The hip joint is one of the largest joints in the human body and is what is known as a "ball and socket joint".
In a healthy hip joint, the bones are connected to each other with bands of tissue known as ligaments. These ligaments are lubricated with fluid to reduce friction.
Joints are also surrounded by a type of tissue called cartilage that is designed to help support the joints and prevent bones from rubbing against each other.
The main purpose of the hip joints is to support the upper body when a person is standing, walking and running, and to help with certain movements, such as bending and stretching.
Why do I need a hip replacement?
It might be necessary for you to have a hip replacement if one (or both) of your hip joints becomes damaged and causes you persistent pain or problems with everyday activities such as walking, driving and getting dressed.
Some common reasons why a hip joint can become damaged include:
- Osteoarthritis – So-called "wear and tear arthritis", where the cartilage inside a hip joint becomes worn away, leading to the bones rubbing against each other
- Rheumatoid arthritis – This is caused by the immune system (the body’s defence against infection) mistakenly attacking the lining of the joint, resulting in pain and stiffness
- Hip fracture – If a hip joint becomes severely damaged during a fall or similar accident it may be necessary to replace it
Many of the conditions treated with a hip replacement are age-related so hip replacements are usually carried out in older adults aged between 60 and 80.
However, a hip replacement may occasionally be performed in younger people.
The purpose of a new hip joint is to:
- Relieve pain
- Improve the function of your hip
- Improve your ability to move around
- Improve your quality of life
What happens during hip replacement surgery?
A hip replacement can be carried out under a general anaesthetic(where you are asleep during the procedure) or an epidural (where the lower body is numbed).
The surgeon makes an incision into the hip, removes the damaged hip joint and then replaces it with an artificial joint that is a metal alloy or, in some cases, ceramic.
The surgery usually takes around 60-90 minutes to complete.
Recovering from hip replacement surgery
For the first four to six weeks after the operation you will need a walking aid, such as crutches, to help support you.
You may also be enrolled on an exercise programme that is designed to help you regain and then improve the use of your new hip joint.
Most people are able to resume normal activities within two to three months but it can take up to a year before you experience the full benefits of your new hip.
Read more about recovering from hip replacement surgery.
What to expect after a hip replacement
Since its introduction in the 1960s, hip replacement surgery has proved to be one of the most effective types of surgery in modern medical history. Most people experience a significant reduction in pain and, to a lesser extent, improvement in their range of movement.
However, it is important to have realistic expectations about what the operation can achieve. For example, you should be able to ride a bike but it is unlikely that you would be able to play a game of rugby safely (although, as with most things, there are always exceptions to this rule).
The rehabilitation process after surgery can be a demanding time and requires commitment.
Why Do People Have Hip Replacement Surgery?
For the majority of people who have hip replacement surgery, the procedure results in:
- A decrease in pain
- Increased mobility
- Improvements in activities of daily living
- Improved quality of life.
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