Hip replacement, also known as total hip arthroplasty, refers to a surgical
procedure during which the damaged bone and cartilage in the hip joint is removed
and replaced with new artificial components. A hip replacement procedure may be
considered when chronic hip pain and disability have not responded to conservative
treatment and interfere with normal daily activities.
The hip joint is located at the meeting point of the rounded head of the femur
and the cavity-shaped acetabulum of the pelvic bone. It is a ball and socket joint
with the rounded head of the femur being the ball and the curved depression that is
known as the acetabulum being the socket. The hip joint is one of the largest weight
bearing joints in the body. It withstands the tremendous forces that activities such
as walking, running and jumping generate. As one of the most flexible joints in the
body, the hip allows a greater range of motion than all of the other joints with the
exception of the shoulder.
There are a number of conditions that can damage the hip joint and lead to
the need for a hip replacement procedure. The most common of these conditions is
osteoarthritis, which is a form of arthritis that is associated wear and tear on the
joints and is typically seen in individuals over the age of 50. In cases of
osteoarthritis of the hip, the articular cartilage covering the surfaces of the ball and
socket wears out leading to painful bone on bone contact. As the damage progresses
symptoms of hip pain, inflammation, stiffness, and impaired mobility increase in
severity. Other than as a result of osteoarthritis, reasons for hip replacement
surgery can include injuries, fractures, bone tumors, rheumatoid arthritis,
congenital hip dysplasia, and osteonecrosis.
Hip replacement surgery is a commonly performed safe and effective
procedure that can relieve hip pain and restore mobility. It is considered when
severe hip pain and stiffness interfere with the ability to carry out everyday
activities and when conservative methods such as medication, physical therapy, and
walking supports have not alleviated the symptoms.
Total hip replacement involves removing both the damaged head of the
femur and the damaged cartilage surface of the socket (acetabulum) and then
replacing them with prosthetic parts. The new top of the femur consists of metal
stem that is press fit or cemented into the hollow of the bone with a metal or
ceramic ball attached to the top of it. The new socket is also made of metal and has a
liner made of plastic, ceramic, or metal to help promote smooth movement.
The majority of individuals who have had hip replacement surgery report a
dramatic relief of symptoms as well as improved mobility. However, as with all
surgical procedures there are risks and benefits. Additionally, a full recovery from
the procedure can take several months. Among the variables that may influence
recovery time are the type of surgical procedure performed, an individual’s overall
health, their adherence to post-surgical guidelines, and the success of their
Alternatives to total hip replacement for treating hip joint dysfunction
include an osteotomy, which involves cutting the bone to realign the joint, as well as
hip resurfacing. However the type of hip surgery that is most suitable for a
particular case depends upon an individual’s overall health, age, hip anatomy, joint
damage, and the nature of the underlying condition.