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Hip replacement

2-minute read

A hip replacement is a type of surgery to replace damaged parts of the hip with man-made parts. The operation can relieve hip pain and improve movement. It is commonly recommended if you have severe hip damage that interferes with your life, when other treatments have not helped.

What is a hip replacement?

During hip replacement surgery, damaged bone and cartilage (tissue at the end of the bone that cushions the joint) are removed from the hip joint. These are replaced with metal or plastic parts.

Hip replacement surgery usually takes 2 to 3 hours. You will be given a general anaesthetic, which makes you fully unconscious, or a spinal anaesthetic, which numbs the lower half of your body.

A hip replacement is also known as hip arthroplasty or a total hip replacement.

Diagram showing the steps involved in a total hip replacement.
During hip replacement surgery, the damaged bone and cartilage are removed from the hip joint. These are replaced with metal or plastic parts.

When is a hip replacement recommended?

Your doctor may recommend a hip replacement if you have:

  • hip pain that has lasted a long time and that makes moving difficult
  • the pain has not improved with medicines, physical therapy or walking support
  • the pain is making it difficult for you to look after yourself and is affecting your daily activities
  • you are in pain even when you’re resting or in bed

A hip replacement can reduce your pain, improve your mobility and give you a better quality of life.

There might be alternatives, such as continuing with physical therapy, adding new methods of pain relief or trying hip resurfacing therapy.

Risks and complications of hip replacement surgery

Hip replacement surgery is considered safe and effective. However, complications can include:

  • infections
  • blood clots
  • hip dislocation, especially in the first few months after surgery
  • that the artificial hip joint wears out over time
  • nerve and blood vessel injury
  • continued pain

Should I have a hip replacement?

To help you decide, here are some questions you might want to ask your surgeon:

  • What are the alternatives to surgery?
  • What are the different surgical options? For instance, is ‘minimally invasive’ hip replacement suitable? This technique reduces cutting of the tissue around the hip.
  • What are the possible complications and how likely are they?
  • What can I expect during recovery?
  • How much improvement can I realistically expect?
  • Will the new hip last all my life?

What to expect after hip replacement surgery

You will probably spend a few days in hospital after the surgery. Most people will be encouraged to walk with the help of a walking support soon after surgery. You will be advised on how to take care of your new hip and how to avoid hip dislocation.

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Last reviewed: February 2019

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