In patients with severe arthritic conditions which impede even their most basic daily activities, total hip replacements are performed. Total hip replacement is usually a last resort when even the use of a cane or the prescription of painkillers have not alleviated pain.
What is hip replacement?
The hip joint comprises two parts – the acetabulum (the hip socket – a depression in the pelvis) and the ball or head of the femur (thigh bone). In a hip replacement surgery, these parts are replaced with smooth, artificial surfaces made of plastic and stainless metal. These are joined to healthy parts of the pelvis and thigh bone using bone cement or special coatings that stimulate bone growth.
Who is it for?
Patients with artificial hips are usually over the age of fifty-five but sometimes the operation is also performed on younger patients. While most of them are victims of arthritis, a few of them have had fractures or other complications which necessitate this procedure.
What can it do for a patient? A hip replacement aims to
- Alleviate pain
- Allow the pain-free resumption of regular day-to-day activities such as walking and climbing stairs
The artificial hip, just like the artificial knee, is not a normal hip. Most patients with stiff hips regain near-normal motion and 95% of patients experience almost total pain relief. It can even allow the patient to participate in comparatively low-impact sports such as golf and cycling. However, high-impact sports such as running and contact sports are not advisable. These activities increase wear and tear on the artificial parts and can lead to injuries involving them which are difficult to treat.
Typically a patient should be able to stand and walk within 24 hours and can be discharged within 3 days of the surgery. Patients need to adhere to the recommended physiotherapy programme and should be able to regain full mobility very quickly.
Longevity of the implant
Most hips will last well over ten years but about 5% will need re-operation near the decade mark. With newer kinds of prosthetics, that longevity is increasing.