What is involved in a hip replacement operation?
Most hip replacement operations are performed under general anaesthetic, but you could also choose to have an epidural, which means you’ll be conscious during the procedure but will not be able to feel any pain. Both your socket and the rounded ball at the top of the thigh bone (femur) will be replaced with artificial parts.
The surgeon will hollow out the socket in your hip, and remove the very top part of your femur. He also makes a short hollow tube down into your femur and inserts a slightly angled titanium alloy shaft with a ball attached at the top. A high-density polythene socket is placed into the hollowed-out socket so that the ball of the shaft in your femur fits snugly into it. Your hip joint is now totally replaced.
The artificial parts are fixed into your body using two different methods:
- Special bone glue or cement – the metal shaft and plastic socket are both secured in place with a special glue
- Permeable material – the metal shaft and plastic socket have tiny holes all over them so that healthy bone can grow into, and fuse around, them.
Why have a hip replacement operation?
There are many advantages to having the operation over just leaving the situation as it is:
- It is one of the most reliable operations in the field of orthopaedic surgery with patients reporting a dramatic improvement in their quality of life. Many people become completely pain free and find they can move again without difficulty.
- Arthritis, and other damage to the hip joint that causes chronic pain, is incurable. It will never get better by itself and unfortunately is likely to gradually get worse.
- Although hip replacements may result in some discomfort at the time it very quickly wears off, and within two - three weeks most patients report the pain has almost gone. This compares favourably to the never-ending pain of arthritis.
- If you’ve found everyday movements quite difficult, after the hip replacement operation you should regain your former level of mobility, allowing you to partake in gentle exercise and leisure pursuits.
- Many patients who suffer from arthritis of both hips, but who’ve only had a single hip replacement operation, ask for a second one as soon as possible.
Hip replacements are now classified as routine but as with all surgery, there are some risks. Most people do not experience any problems after undergoing the procedure.