The hip is a joint that supports most of the body’s weight and is essential for maintaining balance. It consists of a concave cavity at the level of the pelvis and the femur, the upper part of the thigh bone. The bony surface of the hip joint is covered by articular cartilage, a film that protects the bones and allows movement.
A thin membrane surrounds the hip joint. In a healthy hip, this membrane secretes a certain amount of fluid, which lubricates the cartilage and eliminates friction during hip movement. Hip replacement, also called arthroplasty, involves removing the femoral head and replacing it with a metal or ceramic ball. Thus, the patient gets a new hip joint, which allows greater mobility and freedom of movement.
Most commonly, the orthopedic surgeon recommends total hip arthroplasty to patients suffering from coxarthrosis, a degenerative disease of the hip joint. This condition, which many elderly people face, causes great pain and a stiffness of the hip, which limits the affected person’s ability to move. When walking or bending becomes a problem, hip replacement can be a problem. Another situation that may require prosthetics is a fracture of the femoral neck, often as a result of osteoporosis.
How the intervention proceeds
The surgical operation lasts several hours. The surgeon removes the cartilage and the damaged part of the bone and then fixes the implants in a position that ensures the realignment and proper functioning of the hip. After the operation, a hospital stay of several days is necessary. During this period, some pain is felt in the hip, which will be relieved with the help of medicines.
How long does recovery take?
The first weeks after the operation are essential for the success of the intervention and it is very important for the patient to strictly follow the doctor’s instructions. In general, the recovery period lasts between 3 and 6 weeks, after which the patient can resume his normal daily activity. During the recovery period, the patient must avoid falls or dislocation and the use of a cane, crutch or frame is recommended. The occurrence of complications as a result of total hip arthroplasty is unlikely – it happens in less than 2% of patients. But specialists say that chronic diseases can increase the risk of complications. Although rare, they can prolong or limit recovery after arthroplasty.
If appropriate medication, modification of activities, and use of assistive devices (crutches/cane/walker) do not improve symptoms, it is time to consider hip replacement surgery.
The orthopedic surgeon will do a complete evaluation, which consists of medical history, clinical examination and X-rays. Occasionally, advanced imaging, such as a CT scan, may be needed to see the condition of the hip bones in more detail. The orthopedic doctor will present the results of the evaluation and explain to you whether total hip arthroplasty is the best method for removing pain and improving the mobility of your hip.
Other treatment options – including medication, physiotherapy, or other types of surgery – will also be considered. In addition, the orthopedic surgeon will explain to you the risks and potential complications of such an intervention, both those related to the intervention itself and those that may occur over time after total hip arthroplasty. Ask questions whenever you don’t understand something. The more you know, the easier it will be to manage the changes that total hip replacement will bring to your life.