The hip joint rivals the shoulder joint in its complexity. However, the hip joint is unrivaled in its function. There is no other part of the body that combines such extreme mobility with so much weight-bearing responsibility. Whether you’re sitting or standing, the hip bears the brunt of your weight.
But that functionality comes at cost: the hip is especially prone to problems. Moreover, the hip’s fundamental role in walking means that those with hip pain are hard pressed to find relief.
When hip pain is chronic, whether it’s caused by wear and tear of the hip joint or a disease, a total hip replacement is an effective way to relieve pain and restore use of the hip joint. However, the procedure is highly technical and requires an expert surgeon in order to be successful.
Dr. Haleem Chaudhary at Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is a board-certified and fellowship-trained joint reconstruction expert with extensive experience in total hip replacement. Dr. Chaudhary has performed hundreds of hip replacements. This article contains frequently asked questions about total hip replacement, including candidacy, the operation, and recovery.
Why Would Someone Need Total Hip Replacement?
Total hip replacement is often necessary after the cartilage between a patient’s femur and pelvis wears out. Severe arthritis often results from the lack of cartilage and leaves patients with severe achy pain and immobility. Typically, a hip replacement is not performed unless nonsurgical methods fail to relieve hip pain.
What Happens During a Total Hip Replacement?
While the patient is under anesthesia, the hip is cut open and the arthritic bone in the socket of the joint is cleaned out. The surgeon also removes arthritic bone from the femoral head, then inserts an artificial femoral head down into the femur. The joint is then complete and the surgeon shaves arthritic bone from the knee cap before replacing it and closing the incision. For a more visual, detailed explanation, check out this animation.
Will I Be Pain-Free After My Surgery?
Although patients are sore after surgery, most hip replacement patients report being completely pain-free after 3-4 weeks. Additionally, 95% of hip replacement patients reported having less pain one year after their surgery than before it, according to Total Knee Replacements.
How Long Will I Have to Stay in the Medical Facility?
At Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, total hip replacements are performed on an outpatient basis. Patients who have a total hip replacement at Beacon’s state-of-the-art Surgery Center stay for just 23 hours, and then are back in the comfort of their own home to recover. Some Beacon patients may have their total hip replacement at a partnering hospital depending on their health insurance or if they are a high risk patient because of an existing medical condition. Patients who have their surgery done in a hospital typically stay for about 3 days.
Before you are discharged from care, you will need to accomplish several goals, such as:
- Getting in and out of bed by yourself.
- Having acceptable pain control.
- Being able to eat, drink, and use the bathroom.
- Walking with an assistive device (a cane, walker, or crutches) on a level surface and being able to climb up and down two or three stairs.
- Being able to perform the prescribed home exercises.
- Understanding any hip precautions you may have been given to prevent injury and ensure proper healing.
How Long Will I Have to Take Off Work?
It is recommended that patients take 2-6 weeks off of work depending on their occupation. Patients who have a desk job can typically go back to work sooner than patients who have manual labor jobs or have to be on their feet often.
How Long Will Full Recovery Take?
Patients should be able to move around the house after 4-6 weeks without experiencing pain or using walking aids. After that point, the amount of time that is necessary for a full recovery varies between patients. Some patients recover extremely quickly—within a month or two—while others require a full six months before returning to their pre-surgery levels of activity.
What Sort of Post-Operative Care Will I Require?
Initially, you will need the help of a close friend or loved one for everyday tasks such as getting dressed and showering. The length of time you will need assistance depends on the patient, but it is typically anywhere from several days to a few weeks.
Will I Need Physical Therapy?
Yes. Physical therapy is an essential part of your total hip replacement recovery process. Physical therapy begins the following day of your surgery and will take place over the course of several weeks. At first, you will do some simple exercises like contracting and relaxing your muscles in order to strengthen your hip. You will also learn new techniques for movements such as sitting, standing, and bending, in order to prevent any possible damage to your hip replacement. Typically patients are in physical therapy for 6-8 weeks and have sessions twice/week.
What Will Physical Therapy Entail?
The specific exercises depend on the patient and their rehabilitation goals. For example, if the patient’s home has lots of stairs, the physical therapist may prioritize preparing the patient for going up and down stairs. If a patient wants to swim freestyle, the physical therapist will teach exercises that prepare the hip for flutter kicking.
Regardless of individual goals, physical therapy is essential to hip replacement rehabilitation. Patients who attend their physical therapy appointments and perform their prescribed exercises tend to recover more quickly and have better outcomes than those who do not.
How Long Before I Can Drive After Surgery?
Some patients may drive as soon as 2 weeks after surgery, while others may need as long as 8 weeks. During this period, simply getting in and out of a car can be challenging, especially if the car’s seats are low to the ground. In order to drive a car safely, patients must meet the following requirements:
- The patient must be off of narcotic pain medication while driving. If the patient takes pain medication at night only and not during the day while driving, that is acceptable.
- The patient must be able to hit the brake quickly.
- The patient must be able to get in and out of the car comfortably and safely.
In addition, reflexes and muscle strength should have returned to their pre-surgical levels.
What Are the Risks of Hip Replacement?
Here is a list of potential post-surgery complications:
- Blood clots
- Need for second hip replacement
At Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Dr. Chaudhary and your physical therapists will evaluate your risk for complications and provide specific treatments to avoid these risks.
How Likely is it That My Hip Implant Will Dislocate?
While hip dislocation is the most common complication after hip replacement surgery, this only happens to less than 3% of all patients. Dr. Chaudhary uses the anterior approach method, which drastically reduces the risk of dislocation post-surgery because the procedure does not cut through the gluteus maximus or medus.
How Can I Reduce the Likelihood of Injury or Complications?
- Use ice or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to reduce pain and swelling
- Apply heat before exercising to help expand its range of motion
- Try to keep the leg elevated when possible in early recovery to reduced pain and swelling
How Do I Receive an Evaluation for a Total Hip Replacement?
If you are concerned about your hip health, a comprehensive evaluation from Dr. Chaudhary at Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is the next step. Dr. Chaudhary has performed hundreds of total hip replacements and is passionate about getting patients back on their feet and involved in active lifestyles. Don’t wait to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chaudhary today—get back to living your best life now.