Hip Replacement Surgery

“How long do I have to live with a painful hip joint?” “In the past year it has been getting worse. I no longer enjoy walking.” “Can anything be done to help me?” These are just a few of the thoughts expressed to me by patients during my orthopedic clinic.

In my 25 years of performing hip replacements I’ve seen some amazing advances in the technique for the surgery of the hip, the design of the implants and the results patients can expect from their new hip.

One of the most frequently asked questions is: “When is it time for me to have my hip replaced?”

The way I counsel patients is to consider three factors.

  • First: When the pain is getting bad enough that it is impacting your daily life activities. For example: You are invited by a spouse or friend to go for a walk and because of your hip pain you decide to stay home.
  • Second: X-rays of your hip demonstrate moderate to severe arthritic changes.
  • Third: You are beginning to want or are taking additional pain medications such as narcotics (Lortab, Percoset).

In my opinion all three of these factors need to be present to confidently recommend going forward with a hip replacement. If this is the case you can expect a very good outcome from your surgery.

Question: “What is the surgery experience of having a Total Hip like?”

Typically you are admitted to the hospital the day of surgery. The operative time is usually one to two hours. For my patients I insist they get up and walk the same day as the surgery, usually about 6 hours after they return to their room.

  • For some reason, walking the day of surgery seems to shorten the hospital stay and improve the short-term results of the hip replacement.

Question: “Where is the incision for my new hip going to be?”

  • There are principally two approaches to the hip that are commonly used: the posterior (on the back side of the hip), and the anterior (on the front side). For me, I prefer the anterior incision for a number of reasons and that is the one that I use most often. It involves going between the muscles, rather than having to cut muscles, which may lead to less pain and a quicker recovery.

Question: “After the hospital where do I go?”

  • My patients are usually discharged to go home, often the very next day, using crutches or a walker. Most patients seem surprised by the minimal amount of pain they experience after surgery and are anxious to get home to their own bed and some “home-cooking”.

Question: “What kind of activities can I do after my hip is healed?”

  • I don’t recommend sky-diving, full contact Karate, or running marathons.
  • However, hiking, tennis, golf, cycling and even skiing are excellent ways to use your new hip. My best advice is to remember that you have an artificial hip, so be reasonable.

Back to the original question, “How long do I have to live with a painful hip?” My recommendation is to get x-rays and have a discussion with an orthopedic surgeon with extensive experience in doing Hip Replacements.

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