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Planning Retirement Online

A new hip hip hooray

                                   March 2010  

 Hip Replacement 

Hip replacementTurning from four legged animals to upright human beings was a major development in our evolution. However, this hasn’t done our hip joints any favours! Ever since we assumed an upright posture, arthritis of the hip joint has affected mankind.

There may be several contributory causes that contribute to the development of hip arthritis but they all lead to symptoms of pain, stiffness and loss of function.

Groin pain is the most common symptom from hip problems; this can be associated with pain going down the thigh or even to the front of the knee; there may also be pain elsewhere in the buttocks or back – the difference between hip pain and back pain can be quite difficult to tell apart.

However, pain, stiffness or lack of mobility means a visit to the doctor who has a number of tools to determine the problem. Surgery is usually recommended when non-surgical treatments, such as physiotherapy, taking medicines or using physical aids such as a walking stick, no longer help to reduce pain or improve mobility.

Today for people with worn or damaged hip joints, hip replacement surgery is very common. Around 50,000 hip replacements are carried out in the UK every year, mostly on adults over 65. Women are more likely to need a hip replacement than men. The operation success rate is very high with a low level of complications. 95% of patients who have a hip replacement will still have a functioning hip ten years after the operation, and 85% will still have a functioning hip after 20 years.

Another good thing about hip replacement is that, unlike some complex procedures, most of us can generally understand what is being done. The hip joint is a ball and socket, with the ball rotating within the socket providing ease of movement.

Like most medical procedures, there are a number of variations and in hip replacement, there are alternatives such as cemented total hip replacement, hybrid total hip replacement, uncemented total hip replacement and hip resurfacing.

Hip resurfacing can involve replacing the damaged surfaces in the hip joint with metal parts and with less bone removal; while total hip replacement involves replacing both the natural socket and the rounded ball at the top of the thigh bone with artificial parts. With total hip replacement, again there are a number of alternatives. The artificial hip parts can be made from metal, ceramic or plastic; a metal ball with a plastic socket is very common. The hip joints can be fixed into place with a special “bone cement” or may be coated with a chemical that encourages natural bone to grow into the prosthetic joint to fit it into place. Sometimes artificial joints may be fixed using bone screws.

The operation means a hospital stay and is usually done under general anaesthesia although in some cases hip replacements can be achieved under epidural anaesthesia which numbs feeling but means you stay awake during the operation.

While the operation itself is fairly short and straightforward, it is a major operation and requires quite a long recovery period which will probably include taking pain relief and using crutches for several weeks.

Hip replacement is considered to be a safe surgical procedure. Complications that have been associated with hip replacement surgery include infection, deep vein thrombosis and problems with the restoration of the leg length.

But for most people, hip replacement brings relief to pain and mobility problems and can bring back the ability to return to their daily activities with an improved quality of life.


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