The Total Hip Arthroplasty Procedure

Total hip arthroplasty (i.e., “hip replacement”) is the complete replacement of a damaged hip with a prosthetic one. This surgery is performed to relieve pain and restore function to a hip deteriorated by osteoarthritis, rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, avascular necrosis, congenital abnormalities or traumatic injury. Total hip arthroplasty involves replacing the entire diseased joint, composed of the natural ball and socket and its protective cartilage. The damaged joint is replaced with a prosthetic hip, usually made of a ceramic ball and a plastic socket. Total hip arthroplasty is one of the most successful interventions in orthopedic surgery with a high success rate in helping patients to move more normally and without pain.

A total hip arthroplasty is performed under general anesthesia.  The surgery lasts between 1-2 hours, followed by another few hours spent under observation in a recovery room.  Depending on the patient, you may expect to go home or stay 1 night in the hospital following surgery.  Walking begins immediately with the use of a 2-wheeled walker.  Occasionally, physical therapy may be prescribed to assist with strengthening and range of motion.  For some patients, simply walking with at-home exercises is all the therapy they need to achieve a full recovery.

After a total hip replacement, patients may expect to experience discomfort, swelling and bruising in the area for which pain mediation will be prescribed. The presurgical pain resulting from arthritis or other conditions, however, should be gone relatively quickly.  Full recovery is typically 6-9 months; however, most patients experience improvement compared to preoperative pain in the first 2 weeks postoperatively.

Risks of Total Hip Arthroplasty

Most total hip arthroplasty surgeries are successful, and patients heal well, gaining strength, agility and freedom from pain. As with any surgical procedure, however, there are some risks involved. In addition to the general risks of any operation, including bleeding, blood clots and infection, hip arthroplasty may also, in rare cases, result in a dislocation or loosening of the prosthetic device, sensitivity to the metal in the device itself, nerve palsy, osteolysis, and postsurgical stiffness. Overall, these rates are extremely low and the procedure is well tolerated in healthy individuals.

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