What Is a Hip Replacement ?
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 are to improve mobility by relieving pain and improve function of the hip joint.
Who Should Have Hip Replacement Surgery ?
The most common reason that people have hip replacement surgery is the wearing down of the hip joint that results from osteoarthritis. Other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disease that causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling), avascular necrosis (loss of bone caused by insufficient blood supply), injury, and bone tumors also may lead to breakdown of the hip joint and the need for hip replacement surgery.
Before suggesting hip replacement surgery, the doctor is likely to try walking aids such as a cane, or non-surgical therapies such as medication and physical therapy. These therapies are not always effective in relieving pain and improving the function of the hip joint. Hip replacement may be an option if persistent pain and disability interfere with daily activities. Before a doctor recommends hip replacement, joint damage should be detectable on x rays.
In the past, hip replacement surgery was an option primarily for people over 60 years of age. Typically, older people are less active and put less strain on the artificial hip than do younger, more active people. In recent years, however, doctors have found that hip replacement surgery can be very successful in younger people as well. New technology has improved the artificial parts, allowing them to withstand more stress and strain. A more important factor than age in determining the success of hip replacement is the overall health and activity level of the patient.
For some people who would otherwise qualify, hip replacement may be problematic. For example, people with chronic diseases such as those that result in severe muscle weakness or Parkinson's disease are more likely than people without chronic diseases to damage or dislocate an artificial hip. Because people who are at high risk for infections or in poor health are less likely to recover successfully, doctors may not recommend hip replacement surgery for these patients.
What Are Alternatives to Total Hip Replacement ?
Before considering a total hip replacement, the doctor may try other methods of treatment, such as an exercise program and medication. An exercise program can strengthen the muscles in the hip joint and sometimes improve positioning of the hip and relieve pain.
The doctor also may treat inflammation in the hip with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Some common NSAIDs are aspirin and ibuprofen. NSAIDs also include Celebrex* and Vioxx, so-called COX-2 inhibitors that block an enzyme known to cause an inflammatory response. Many of these medications are available without a prescription, although a doctor also can prescribe NSAIDs in stronger doses.
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In a small number of cases, the doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, if NSAIDs do not relieve pain. Corticosteroids reduce joint inflammation and are frequently used to treat rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroids are not always a treatment option because they can cause further damage to the bones in the joint. Some people experience side effects from corticosteroids such as increased appetite, weight gain, and lower resistance to infections. A doctor must prescribe and monitor corticosteroid treatment. Because corticosteroids alter the body's natural hormone production, patients should not stop taking them suddenly and should follow the doctor's instructions for discontinuing treatment.
If physical therapy and medication do not relieve pain and improve joint function, the doctor may suggest corrective surgery that is less complex than a hip replacement, such as an osteotomy. Osteotomy is surgical repositioning of the joint. The surgeon cuts away damaged bone and tissue and restores the joint to its proper position. The goal of this surgery is to restore the joint to its correct position, which helps to distribute weight evenly in the joint.
For some people, an osteotomy relieves pain. Recovery from an osteotomy takes 6 to 12 months. After an osteotomy, the function of the hip joint may continue to worsen and the patient may need additional treatment. The length of time before another surgery is needed varies greatly and depends on the condition of the joint before the procedure.
Is a Cemented or Uncemented Prosthesis Better ?
Cemented prostheses were developed 40 years ago. Uncemented prostheses were developed about 20 years ago to try to avoid the possibility of loosening parts and the breaking off of cement particles, which sometimes happen in the cemented replacement. Because each person's condition is unique, the doctor and patient must weigh the advantages and disadvantages to decide which type of prosthesis is better.
For some people, an uncemented prosthesis may last longer than cemented replacements because there is no cement that can break away. And, if the patient needs an additional hip replacement (which is likely in younger people), also known as a revision, the surgery sometimes is easier if the person has an uncemented prosthesis.
The primary disadvantage of an uncemented prosthesis is the extended recovery period. Because it takes a long time for the natural bone to grow and attach to the prosthesis, people with uncemented replacements must limit activities for up to 3 months to protect the hip joint. The process of natural bone growth also can cause thigh pain for several months after the surgery.
Research has proven the effectiveness of cemented prostheses to reduce pain and increase joint mobility. These results usually are noticeable immediately after surgery. Cemented replacements are more frequently used than cementless ones for older, less active people and people with weak bones, such as those who have osteoporosis.
What Can Be Expected Immediately After Surgery ?
Patients are allowed only limited movement immediately after hip replacement surgery. When the patient is in bed, the hip usually is braced with pillows or a special device that holds the hip in the correct position. The patient may receive fluids through an intravenous tube to replace fluids lost during surgery. There also may be a tube located near the incision to drain fluid and a tube (catheter) may be used to drain urine until the patient is able to use the bathroom. The doctor will prescribe medicine for pain or discomfort.
How Long Are Recovery and Rehabilitation ?
On the day after surgery or sometimes on the day of surgery, therapists will teach the patient exercises that will improve recovery. A respiratory therapist may ask the patient to breathe deeply, cough, or blow into a simple device that measures lung capacity. These exercises reduce the collection of fluid in the lungs after surgery.
A physical therapist may teach the patient exercises, such as contracting and relaxing certain muscles, that can strengthen the hip. Because the new, artificial hip has a more limited range of movement than an undiseased hip, the physical therapist also will teach the patient proper techniques for simple activities of daily living, such as bending and sitting, to prevent injury to the new hip. As early as 1 to 2 days after surgery, a patient may be able to sit on the edge of the bed, stand, and even walk with assistance.
Usually, people do not spend more than 10 days in the hospital after hip replacement surgery. Full recovery from the surgery takes about 3 to 6 months, depending on the type of surgery, the overall health of the patient, and the success of rehabilitation.
How to Prepare for Surgery and Recovery ?
People can do many things before and after they have surgery to make everyday tasks easier and help speed their recovery.
Learn what to expect before, during, and after surgery. Request information written for patients from the doctor or contact one of the organizations listed near the end of this document.
Arrange for someone to help you around the house for a week or two after coming home from the hospital.Arrange for transportation to and from the hospital.
Set up a "recovery station" at home. Place the television remote control, radio, telephone, medicine, tissues, waste basket, and pitcher and glass next to the spot where you will spend the most time while you recover.
Place items you use every day at arm level to avoid reaching up or bending down. Stock up on kitchen staples and prepare food in advance, such as frozen casseroles or soups that can be reheated and served easily.
Follow the doctor's instructions. Work with a physical therapist or other health care professional to rehabilitate your hip. Wear an apron for carrying things around the house. This leaves hands and arms free for balance or to use crutches. Use a long-handled "reacher" to turn on lights or grab things that are beyond arm's length. Hospital personnel may provide one of these or suggest where to buy one.
What Are Possible Complications of Hip Replacement Surgery ?
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, approximately 120,000 hip replacement operations are performed each year in the United States and less than 10 percent require further surgery. New technology and advances in surgical techniques have greatly reduced the risks involved with hip replacements.
The most common problem that may happen soon after hip replacement surgery is hip dislocation. Because the artificial ball and socket are smaller than the normal ones, the ball can become dislodged from the socket if the hip is placed in certain positions. The most dangerous position usually is pulling the knees up to the chest.
The most common later complication of hip replacement surgery is an inflammatory reaction to tiny particles that gradually wear off of the artificial joint surfaces and are absorbed by the surrounding tissues. The inflammation may trigger the action of special cells that eat away some of the bone, causing the implant to loosen. To treat this complication, the doctor may use anti-inflammatory medications or recommend revision surgery (replacement of an artificial joint). Medical scientists are experimenting with new materials that last longer and cause less inflammation.
Less common complications of hip replacement surgery include infection, blood clots, and heterotopic bone formation (bone growth beyond the normal edges of bone).
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