Benefits of Hip Replacement Surgery
You might want to consider a hip replacement (also called total hip arthroplasty or THA) if:
- Medication, physical therapy, and injections have failed to reduce pain in your hip, and/or
- Hip pain limits your ability to walk, work, or perform simple activities.
Hip replacement surgery removes the parts of the hip that are causing pain and replaces them with artificial parts. The goal of this procedure is to:
- make it less painful to move your hip,
- improve hip function (how your hip works), and
- improve your quality of life.
If you’ve suffered from hip pain for a long time, you may want to consider hip replacement surgery.
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Hip Replacement Surgery
For total hip replacement, the surgeon will remove the femoral head (ball part of the joint on the hip bone). Next they will shape a canal in the middle of the hip bone to fit the replacement ball onto the bone (stem). Then they will shape the socket (or cup) in the pelvis to fit the ball. Finally they insert a liner into the cup and a head (the ball) onto the stem.
For a total hip replacement surgery without complications, the hospital stay is about one to three days after surgery.
Starting the afternoon after surgery a physical therapist will visit you and help you with exercises, learning to sit, stand and walk with your new total joint. Patients are able to walk immediately after surgery. Your physical therapist will describe what your expectations will be in the first week.
After you leave the hospital, you will have a list of the exercises you have learned to continue yourself at home. If you'd like further supervision for those exercises, we will offer assistance via phone, email, or video conferencing (virtual rehabilitation).
Risks of Hip Replacement Surgery
The major risks include the following:
- Blood clot: We do reduce risk of this by using blood thinners (Enoxaparin, Aspirin or Coumadin), TED hose (compressive stockings) and compression boots on your feet to increase circulation.
- Infection: You are given IV antibiotics before and after surgery.
- Nerve, blood vessel damage: Because specialists performing this replacement work close to important vessels and nerves, they take great care not to injure these structures.
- Total hip arthroplasty (THA) dislocation: As a patient you can avoid this by following total hip precautions. Complications with existing or new medical problems.
What If I Get an Infection?
Infection is very rare, but a difficult complication. Read more about joint infection after replacement.
What Happens When I Leave the Hospital?
You will usually need 24-hour help for a few days. If you don't have adequate help at home, our case managers will work with you to find other options, such as a rehab facility or extended care facility.
Hip Replacement Recovery Time
Recovery time, which is about four to six weeks, follows this schedule:
First Four to Six Weeks
- Do your physical therapy exercises.
- Keep the wound clean; no ointments or lotion on the wound.
- Take blood thinners (Coumadin managed by the anti-coagulation service).
- Walk as you are able with crutches/walker.
- Transition to a single crutch/cane when you are ready.
After Six Weeks
- Continue exercises and walk or ride a stationary bicycle.
- Use a crutch/cane until you can walk without a limp.
- Return to work part time or full time as you are able (as early as four to six weeks from surgery).
- Return to full activity when ready except for running and jumping activities
We will also see you six weeks after surgery, six months, one year, and two years for the rest of your life. We will also take X-rays at six weeks and yearly. (Even if you live out of town, we like to see copies.)
The best lifelong activities at this point are walking, swimming, and biking.
How Long Does It Take Pain to Go Away After Hip Replacement?
General you will only take narcotics for pain as long as you need them, usually about 5-14 days from the day of surgery. After that Tylenol will usually handle the pain.
When Can I Drive After Hip Replacement Surgery?
Usually three to four weeks after surgery (Make sure you have control of your leg, you have no spasms, you are off pain medication, and use caution.)
Hip Replacement Complications
If you experience problems with your wound or joint replacement, please call the nurse/MA who works with your surgeon. Your post-surgery instructions will give you a phone number to use.
If you feel like it is an emergency, please call the clinic immediately or the University of Utah Hospital operator. The operator will have the orthopedic resident on call paged at the following number:
If it is after 5 pm, go to your nearest emergency department.
How Long Does a Hip Replacement Last?
Today, your hip replacement will last 15–20 years, depending on how active you are and your general health. You may need another surgery depending on how old you are and how much wear and tear you put on your total joint.
You will continue to have X-rays every two years so we can monitor the joint. When it starts to wear out, we can often see changes on the X-ray before you feel symptoms. If we X-ray your joint every two years, we can better determine the need and time for another operation.
Do Total Joints Wear Out?
The metal parts of total joints can loosen over time, but often the cause of wear is from the bearing surface. Your immune system attacks the particles from the bearing surface but also melts bone away. Now we are using a metal liner (metal-on-metal), ceramic-on-ceramic and cross-linked polyethylene liners that wear less than what we had years ago.
Lifestyle Habits After Joint Replacement
After a joint replacement, patients can resume just about everything, especially walking, swimming, and bicycle riding. We discourage repetitive jumping and running, yoga, or excessive stretching.
You should also take prophylactic antibiotics, because total joints are made of metal and are at risk for infection when bacteria circulate through your bloodstream.
If your joint becomes infected, it requires more than two additional surgeries. Therefore, take antibiotics with any bacterial infection as prescribed by your family practitioner. We strongly recommend that you take antibiotics for all dental and invasive procedures for the rest of your life.