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Total Hip Replacement


What you need to know about total hip replacement (THR):

THR is surgery to replace a hip joint damaged by wear, injury, or osteoarthritis. It is also called total hip arthroplasty. The hip joint is where the top of your femur (thigh bone) sits in the socket of your pelvic bone. The joint is held together by ligaments and muscles. The top of your femur is shaped like a ball and covered with cartilage. Cartilage is a tissue that helps joints move.

Normal Hip Joint

How to prepare for THR:

  • The week before surgery:
    • Ask a family member or friend to drive you home when you are discharged from the hospital. Ask someone to stay with you for 1 to 2 weeks after surgery, in case you need help.
    • You may need to move furniture around to make room for assistive devices that will be used after surgery. You may need a cane or a walker to get around safely.
    • Keep all self-care items and most commonly used items within your reach. After surgery, you will need to avoid bending down or reaching over your head.
    • You will not be able to sit or get up from low seating after surgery. Check to see if your chairs and toilet seats are too low.
    • Ask your healthcare provider about other things you can do to make your home safer.
  • Your healthcare provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery.

What will happen during THR:

  • Your healthcare provider may use general anesthesia or a spinal block. General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Ask your healthcare provider which of the following procedures is right for you:
    • The conventional hip replacement involves 1 incision. Your healthcare provider will make the incision along the front, side, or back of your hip.
    • The minimally invasive hip replacement surgery involves a smaller incision that is about 4 to 8 inches in length. Your healthcare provider may make an incision along the front, side, or back of your hip. He or she will use fluoroscopy (a type of x-ray) as a guide during the surgery.
  • The ball of your femur and the socket of your pelvis will be removed. A hip implant will replace the bones that were removed. Your healthcare provider may use medical cement to secure the implant parts. He or she may use an implant that has a porous surface. This surface allows your own bone to grow and fill the pores of the implant. Your healthcare provider may use both cement to hold the ball in place, and a porous socket implant. A drain may be placed to remove extra blood and fluids from the surgery area. Your incision will be closed with stitches, staples, or glue and covered with a bandage.
    Total Hip Replacement

What will happen after THR:

You may need to stay in the hospital for up to 5 days. It is important to cough and deep breathe after your procedure. Healthcare providers will teach you to use an incentive spirometer. When you cough, deep breathe, and use the incentive spirometer you decrease your risk of pneumonia. They will teach how to sit up and move without causing damage to your hip. You will be able to walk within the first day after surgery with help. You will be taught to use a walker or a cane. You will be taught exercises to keep both legs strong and reduce the risk of blood clots. You will be wearing pressure stockings to help promote blood flow and prevent clots.

Risks of THR:

  • You may have more hip pain, or your hip joint may become stiff or numb. Your joint movement may not be as stable as it was before your surgery. You may have bone loss, or the bones near the implant area may break or crack. You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. Your nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, or muscles may be damaged during surgery.
  • Your implant may become loose or move out of place. If this happens, you may need another surgery to replace the implant. You may need surgery to remove your implant if you have an allergic reaction to the materials. You may get a blood clot in your limb. This may become life-threatening.


  • Use your assistive devices as directed. Examples include walker, cane, and a reacher. These devices will help decrease your risk for falls.
  • Do your exercises several times each day. The physical therapist will teach you exercises. Exercises build strength and prevent blood clots.

Prevent dislocation of your hip implant:

Do the following for up to 8 weeks after your hip replacement:

  • Sit in a straight-backed chair. Use armrests to help you rise from a seated position. Do not sit in low chairs, sofas, rocking chairs, or stools.
  • Use assistive devices to put on socks and shoes. Do not lean forward to put on pants, socks or shoes. Do not lean forward or twist to pick items up.
  • Keep your knees apart. Do not cross your legs. You may need to put a pillow between your knees to remind you.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to have your stitches or staples removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care for your incision area as directed:

Do not get the area wet until it is completely healed. Ask your healthcare provider when it is okay to get the area wet. Change your bandage as directed and if it gets wet or dirty.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain. If you are not able to be safe at home, you may be admitted to a rehabilitation facility.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.