If you’re living with hip pain and have tried non-surgical treatments—like painkillers, physical therapy, and injections—without relief, it may be time to consider hip replacement surgery. But before you make that decision, there are many important factors to consider.
Is Hip Replacement Surgery Right for You?
A total hip replacement procedure isn’t the answer for everyone. Before deciding to undergo hip replacement surgery, you should consider several factors, including your age, the severity of your symptoms, your diagnosis, and your ability to complete the recovery process.
In general, hip prosthetics last around 15 to 20 years. Just as our natural hips can become worn down over time, so can your artificial hip: your implant can be weakened by friction during decades of everyday use. This weakening is often accelerated by obesity or being too active.
Orthopedic surgeons typically recommend waiting until you are older to receive a hip replacement. The younger you are when you receive your hip implant, the more likely it will be that you will have to get it repaired or replaced one day.
The Severity of Your Symptoms
If the problems caused by your hip pain symptoms are still bearable—meaning, if they don’t hinder your daily life—it may not necessarily be time for a hip replacement. You should only consider replacing your hip if all other non-surgical treatments have failed. While hip replacement surgery is proven to be safe and effective, all surgeries carry a risk of complications and infections. For this reason, hip replacement surgery should be considered a last resort.
An orthopedic surgeon will need to determine the underlying cause of your hip pain to see if a total hip replacement is the right answer for you.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are some of the most common causes of hip pain and disability. Post-traumatic arthritis, which can develop as a result of an injury, fracture, or dislocation, can also create the need for a hip replacement.
Although hip replacement surgery is commonly utilized as a treatment for arthritis in the hip, it’s important to note that loosening of the implant is common in patients with inflammatory arthritis. Your orthopedic surgeon will need to perform imaging tests on the area to see if a hip replacement is right for you.
Osteonecrosis of the hip occurs when the head of your femur, or thigh bone, doesn’t receive enough of the blood supply that keeps it healthy and functioning. This loss can lead to damage, arthritis, and even collapse of the femoral head.
Fractures, dislocations, thrombosis, vasculitis, Crohn’s disease, and alcoholism can all lead to the development of osteonecrosis. Hip replacements relieve the pain caused by osteonecrosis because the femoral head and the damaged cartilage are replaced with artificial materials.
Other Medical Conditions
Your overall health will need to be assessed to determine whether or not you are a viable candidate for total hip replacement surgery. Your bone health and bone density, for example, can affect whether an artificial hip will be more likely to become loose or shift out of place. Your doctor will need to do a physical examination and go over your medical history.
Poor candidates for hip replacement surgery include those who smoke, those who have already undergone a hip replacement, those with high-risk health issues, and those who cannot commit to the rehabilitation process after the surgery. Talk to your doctor about managing any chronic conditions—such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or sleep apnea—throughout the stages of your joint replacement.
Recovery from hip replacement surgery is an extensive process. For this reason, there are things you need to take care of well before the scheduled date of your procedure. Being prepared ahead of time will help the recovery process go much more smoothly.
Physical therapy is necessary for success after any joint replacement procedure. Completing your prescribed physical therapy requirements helps you heal more quickly and with fewer complications.
Physical therapy often starts shortly after your surgery while you are still in the hospital. Your regimen will be customized to your needs as determined by a physical therapist and your surgeon. When you are discharged, you will be prescribed specific exercises to help your new hip.
If you are unsure if you will be able to complete a physical therapy regimen after you undergo surgery, a hip replacement may not be right for you at this time. Factors that could impact your ability to successfully perform physical therapy activities include:
- Your health. Your doctor will evaluate you before your joint replacement surgery to determine if you are healthy enough to participate in physical therapy. If the physical activities you can do are limited, you may need a specialized regimen.
- Your resources. Not every patient has a rehabilitation center they can access near their home. Your discharge planning team will help you find the best option for you, whether that means sending a physical therapist to your home or helping you find an inpatient facility that will better suit your needs.
- Your time. If you are unable to take time off of work or from other duties to commit to a physical therapy program, your body will not be able to effectively heal and strengthen. Schedule your hip replacement during a time when you won’t be too busy to commit to your recovery.
Preparing Your Home
Before your surgery, you will be given a list of changes to make to your home in order to make it easier for you to move around and function with your new hip as you recover. Examples include:
- Staying on the ground floor. Climbing stairs should be kept to a minimum, so you will need to make sure that all your essentials are on the ground floor with you. Do you have places to sleep, eat, and use the bathroom that don’t require you to climb stairs? If not, consider staying in a rehabilitation center or at a friend or family member’s house.
- Rearranging furniture. You will need a walker or cane to move around for a while after your surgery, so be sure to clear plenty of space in your living areas.
- Removing rugs. Rugs can slip or bunch up, impeding your mobility and increasing your risk of falling.
- Installing shower handles. These should be sturdy enough to prevent you from slipping and falling in the shower. A bench or chair for your shower may also be helpful.
- Preparing meals. Your ability to cook will be limited, so preparing and freezing meals ahead of time is important to ensure you will have convenient access to food.
- Getting firm pillows. If your pillows and chair cushions are soft, buy or borrow firm ones. These are needed to allow you to sit with proper support. They can also be used to prop up your leg while you sleep.
For a successful recovery from total hip replacement surgery, you will need plenty of time off of work. You will also need to arrange for help from family and friends for a few weeks once you are home, so be sure to coordinate schedules as required. If you don’t have nearby friends or family that can help, your discharge team can help you with caregiver arrangements.
You should stop smoking before your surgery as it leads to unnecessary risks and affects your healing. To reduce your risk of infection, schedule major dental procedures before your surgery. No other surgical procedures should be performed within the first 90 days after your surgery.
While your new hip will allow you to resume many of the activities you enjoyed before you developed chronic hip pain, it is important to note that you should keep high-impact movements like running and jumping to a minimum as they can accelerate the wear and tear of your implant. Walking, biking, and swimming are great low-impact exercises for hip replacement patients. Other activities you can safely and comfortably take part in with your new hip include golfing, driving, and dancing.
When traveling, keep in mind that the materials used in your artificial hip may set off metal detectors. Alert security officers at airports, museums, and other public places about your artificial hip before you are scanned.
Finally, you may need to limit, adjust, or change the way you currently bend at the hip when reaching and sitting. Your surgical team will advise you on the specific restrictions and benefits of your new hip.
Living with Hip Pain
If you’re living with hip pain and think it’s time for a hip replacement, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital today at (877) 918-7200 for help making an appointment with one of our specialists.