Information About Hip Replacement Surgery for Patients and Their Families

What is hip replacement surgery?
Hip replacement surgery is an operation that will replace your natural hip with an artificial joint.

In the normal hip, the two bones of the hip joint fit together like a ball and socket. The top part of the thigh bone (femur) is shaped like a ball and it fits into the socket cavity of the pelvic bone. Ligaments hold the joint together and stabilize it.

Joint diseases, such as arthritis, can make the joint surfaces change shape, rub together, and cause pain. There are nerve endings in the hip joint that sense pain when the joint surfaces press against the nerves. During a hip replacement, a surgeon replaces diseased parts of the joint with metal, plastic, or ceramic implants. The new artificial joint surfaces should interact more smoothly without pressing on nerves or diseased bone.

This surgery is also called total hip replacement or hip arthroplasty. Every year, surgeons perform about 139,000 hip replacements in the United States. Orthopedic surgeons have performed hip replacement operations since the 1960s. Older adult patients, including senior citizens over the age 65, have benefited the most from hip replacement surgery. Relatively younger adult patients can sometimes benefit but, because they are the most active, they risk excessive wear and tear in the joint. Experience shows that a hip replacement lasts for at least 10 years in 85% of patients.

How Hip Replacement is performed
  • Before surgery, someone will "prep" and clean the surgical area. Often, your skin will be washed with an antiseptic preparation of water and iodine.
  • An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in a vein so your body can receive medications and fluids.
  • General anesthesia will be used for your comfort during the procedure. Other types of anesthesia include regional block, spinal, and local.

The three main steps in hip replacement surgery are:

  1. Removing the diseased or injured surfaces of the hip joint.
  2. Preparing the end of the thigh bone (femur) and the socket in the pelvis so the metal, plastic, or ceramic implants can be attached.
  3. Binding the hip-joint implants to the bones. The surgeon may initially use screws to hold the implant in place, and then secure it as a "cemented" or "cementless" implant. If you are getting a "cementless" implant, your natural bone will grow into the small spaces in the metal, holding it securely in place.

Click to continue: What to expect after surgery

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