The hip is one of the largest joints in the body and one of its most important. The rounded head of the femur (thighbone) acts as the “ball” and the acetabulum, which is part of the pelvis bone, acts as the “socket”. Because the size and shape of these bones fit well together, the hip joint is normally very sturdy. In fact, the hip supports most of the body’s weight, second only to the knee joint. But despite the hip’s ability to withstand a fair amount of wear and tear, it’s not indestructible. Like other joints in the body, it is susceptible to injury, inflammation, and disease. If left untreated, these conditions can lead to painful and irreversible damage.
In the case of severe joint damage, a physician will recommend surgery. Hip replacement is not only one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S. but also one of the most successful. An estimated 2.5 million people in the U.S. live with a hip replacement.
If you experience hip pain that interferes with daily activities and keeps you up at night, schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist about your options. Here is information about hip replacements that will help guide your discussion.
What Is Hip Replacement Surgery?
Hip replacement surgery, also known as hip arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which the damaged portions of the hip joint are removed and replaced with an artificial joint. The goal of hip replacement surgery is to relieve pain, increase mobility, improve the function of the hip joint, and improve the quality of the patient’s life overall.
Partial Hip Replacement
Partial hip replacement, also called hip hemiarthroplasty, is primarily used to treat fractured hip bones. During the procedure, surgeons remove the head of the femur and leave the acetabulum untouched.
Total Hip Replacement
Total hip replacement, also called total hip arthroplasty, is primarily used to treat degenerative arthritis in the hip joint. During the procedure, both the femur and the acetabulum are replaced with a prosthetic joint.
What Conditions Are Treated by Hip Replacement?
While a number of conditions can cause hip pain, hip replacement is reserved for individuals with extensive hip damage. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteonecrosis, fractures, and bone tumors are the conditions that commonly require surgical intervention.
Osteoarthritis, which is sometimes called degenerative joint disease, is the most common cause of hip damage. Osteoarthritis wears away the smooth articular cartilage that normally protects the hip joint. Without cartilage, bones will rub against one another leading to joint inflammation and pain. Unfortunately, the symptoms of osteoarthritis become worse over time and the progression of the disease cannot be stopped. While acute forms of osteoarthritis can be treated with exercise, heat therapy, and physical therapy, severe forms of the disease eventually require a total hip replacement.
It’s not currently known what causes osteoarthritis; however, it occurs most often in individuals age 40 or older and those who have a family history of the disease. Stiffness is the earliest sign of the disease and joint pain and inflammation will increase over time.
2. Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the joint, causing joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Over time, this leads to bone erosion and joint deformity.
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when an individual’s autoimmune disease attacks their own body; however, similar to osteoarthritis, it’s not clear what causes this in the first place. Once rheumatoid arthritis develops, it will continue to progress and eventually spread to other joints. If left untreated, it can also contribute to the development of osteoporosis. There are limited treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis in the hip. Because of this, hip replacement is often necessary.
In healthy individuals, old bone is always being replaced by new bone. In order for this to happen, bones require a continuous supply of blood. Bones that lack an adequate blood flow break down faster than the body can replace. Over time, the bone tissue will die and collapse. This condition is known as osteonecrosis or avascular necrosis.
Osteonecrosis is commonly caused by a fracture, dislocation, or another joint injury that damages blood vessels. While conservative treatments can slow down the progression of osteonecrosis, most people will eventually require surgery.
4. Hip Fractures
A hip fracture, which is sometimes called a broken hip, occurs when either the head of the femur or the acetabulum breaks. These injuries are often caused by falling or blunt trauma. Osteoporosis, which is a condition that weakens bones, as well as obesity, can also make bones more susceptible to a fracture.
A broken hip is not only painful but it can lead to life-threatening complications. It’s imperative that you receive immediate medical attention from an orthopaedic specialist if you experience:
- Hip or groin pain
- Difficulty walking
A broken hip will not heal on its own and almost always requires surgery.
5. Bone Tumors
When cells divide abnormally, they can form a lump of tissue called a tumor. While most bone tumors are benign, they can be serious if they weaken bone or interfere with the body’s structures. Surgery is often required, even for benign tumors. In fact, most benign tumors respond well to surgical removal and are unlikely to reoccur following an operation.
Who Is A Candidate for Hip Replacement?
Candidates for hip replacement have extensive, irreversible hip joint damage. This damage causes severe hip pain that limits or completely impairs everyday activities such as standing up, walking, or lying down. This pain can also interfere with sleep.
In the past, hip replacement was reserved for older patients. New technology has improved the quality of prosthetics, which are the artificial parts that replace damaged joints, allowing them to withstand more strain and last longer. Because of these advancements, hip replacement can also be an effective, long-lasting treatment for younger patients.
As with all forms of surgery, a physician will first recommend non-surgical options. If a patient’s condition does not improve with conservative treatments, a physician will recommend surgery.
Talk to Dr. Chaudhary about Your Options
The conditions that commonly cause hip joint damage—osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteonecrosis, hip fractures, and bone tumors—become worse with time. Early intervention is crucial not only for immediate relief but to also avoid future, potentially life-threatening complications.
If you experience persistent hip pain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Haleem Chaudhary to talk about possible causes and treatments. Dr. Chaudhary is a total joint specialist at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine with specific expertise in minimally-invasive anterior approach total hip replacement and hip replacement revisions.
Dr. Chaudhary is available to see patients at Beacon East, Summit Woods, and Beacon West in Ohio as well as the Beacon Northern Kentucky location.