The joints of the body are unique hinges that provide smooth movements and absorb shock throughout the years. But, over time, these joints may wear out no matter how well individuals try to protect them. While medications and lifestyle changes can decrease joint pain and improve a patient’s quality of life in many circumstances, orthopedic surgery may eventually be needed to replace the broken-down joint with an artificial one.
Although total hip surgery, also called total hip arthroplasty, is seen as a last resort for treatment, hundreds of thousands of patients undergo this procedure every year in the United States. Most find that they experience far less pain and far greater mobility than they did prior to the procedure.
Hip Replacement Surgery
Hip replacement surgery is a type of orthopedic surgery used to replace a failing hip joint. While it can be performed at any age, the vast majority of patients are over the age of 45 (with many being over the age of 80), because the hip continues wearing out as the body ages.
During surgery, the ball of the femur is replaced with a prosthesis, which is firmly attached to the natural hip bone. The socket of the pelvis where the ball of the femur rests and rotates is also replaced with a prosthesis, which is usually made from metal. In addition, special spacers are placed between the new ball and the new socket to replace the missing soft tissues and to create smooth movements following surgery.
Who Needs This Surgery?
This hip surgery is usually performed as a last resort treatment option when joint pain cannot be controlled with lifestyle changes, medications and therapies alone. Those who need this procedure have a worn-down, failing joint (typically due to the aging process).
Arthritis is the most common contributor to the need for this surgery. Osteoarthritis causes the smooth tissues within the joint – including the cartilage – to break down, causing the parts of the joint to no longer glide over others. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis may also lead to hip replacement surgery due to an overactive immune system that attacks the body’s joints, eating away at the cartilage.
Although arthritis is the most common cause of a breakdown in the hip joint, a process known as osteonecrosis may also make hip replacement necessary. With this disease, an inadequate supply of blood can lead to the breakdown of joint tissues, eventually causing the bone to become deformed.
A doctor will usually consider hip arthroplasty for patients who are experiencing a worsening degree of pain, who are finding it difficult to walk even with the help of a cane or walker and who find that decreased mobility is significantly interfering with their activities of daily life.
What Are the Types of Hip Replacement Surgery?
This surgery can be performed in two major ways depending on the surgeon’s preference and the needs of the patient. Traditional hip replacement is done with a very long incision down the side of the leg. Usually, this incision reaches at least 12 inches from the top of the hip bone down the leg to allow the doctor to detach the muscles from the hip, remove the damaged femur and replace the hip joint with new prostheses.
A newer surgical option allows the surgeon to follow nearly the same surgical procedure but creates only a 6-inch or shorter incision, which leaves the patient with less scarring and a generally easier recovery period. Another minimally invasive option utilizes two even shorter incisions. One is placed over the groin to allow the surgeon to replace the hip socket while the other is placed over the buttocks to allow the surgeon to place the new femoral head. Of course, special surgical instruments are used to place the implants correctly through such small openings.
How Should Patients Prepare for Hip Surgery?
Before surgery, you will have a lengthy consultation with the surgeon. This appointment will give the surgeon a chance to assess issues, learn about his past medical and surgical history and order any necessary pre-operative testing (such as X-rays or MRI).
Patients may be asked to stop or reduce the amount of certain medications they take, such as blood thinners. In addition, they should get ready for the post-operative period by stockpiling meals in their freezers, placing everyday items in easy-to-reach locations and lining up someone to drive them to and from the surgery and to help them for the first week or two after surgery.
What Can Patients Expect During and After Surgery?
Hip replacement surgery usually lasts an hour or two, and patients will be asleep throughout the procedure. General anesthesia ensures that patients will have no recollection of what happens during surgery and will feel no pain during the procedure.
When patients wake from the anesthesia, they will be groggy for a couple of hours and will have a long dressing over the hip, buttocks or groin (depending on the surgical approach that was used).
Nursing staff will help patients sit up and stand beside the bed as soon as possible after surgery to improve mobility. As soon as possible, a physical therapist will movement and teaching individuals how to bend, stretch and walk so that they return to normal activity quickly.
What Is Hip Replacement Recovery Like?
The surgeon will give each patient clear instructions about what to expect and how to care for themselves at home. (It may be wise to have a close friend or family member present to hear these instructions, as well.)
You will learn how to care for incisions, how to remove and replace dressings, what medications to take and how to adapt to bathing modifications. You will also be instructed to return for follow-up visits to give the surgeon a chance to see how healing is progressing and to remove staples or sutures at the right time.
Full recovery after hip surgery can take quite some time with some patients not feeling completely back to their old selves for up to six months. However, most patients can resume the majority of their usual activities within three months after surgery and can do most light activities within a month and a half.
Why You Should Choose Edgewood Surgical Hospital for Your Orthopedic Surgery
Orthopedic surgery is a major procedure that can significantly affect one’s quality of life. After all, the bones and joints greatly affect mobility, and everyone needs to stay mobile to remain active with work, hobbies and other daily activities. That is why we offer premier care for orthopedic patients of all ages at Edgewood Surgical Hospital. We offer everything from pre-operative consultations and diagnostic imaging to comprehensive post-operative care from our experienced surgeons.
At Edgewood, patients will experience cutting-edge surgical care, incredibly low infection rates, compassionate nursing and a high level of expertise for all types of total joint replacement surgeries. We encourage you to contact Edgewood Surgical Hospital today if you are interested in finding high-quality orthopedic care that is close to home.