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Total Hip Replacement

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about total hip replacement?

Total hip replacement (THR) is surgery to replace your 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 do I prepare for THR?

  • Your healthcare provider will check your overall health. He or she will ask about your current hip pain or stiffness. Tell your provider how pain or stiffness affects your daily activities or ability to play sports. He or she may also ask about fatigue, anxiety, or depression you may have.
  • Some medicines will need to be stopped weeks before surgery. These medicines include blood thinning medicine, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. It also includes some antirheumatic medicines. Make sure your healthcare provider knows all medicines you are taking. Also ask how long before surgery to stop taking them.
  • 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?

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. You may instead be given regional anesthesia, such as spinal or epidural anesthesia, or a peripheral nerve block. Regional anesthesia keeps you numb from the waist down, but you will be awake during surgery.
  • Your healthcare provider will talk to you about 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 or staples and covered with a bandage.
    Total Hip Replacement

What will happen after THR?

  • It is normal to have increased stiffness and pain after surgery. Your pain and stiffness should get better with exercise.
  • Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Healthcare providers will teach you how to sit up and move without causing damage to your hip. A physical therapist will help you walk after your surgery. When you walk the same day after surgery, it helps decrease pain and improves the function of your hip. You may use crutches or a walker.
  • You may be in the hospital for up to 5 days, or you may go home shortly after surgery. Your healthcare provider may talk to you about rehabilitation you can do at home. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help strengthen your hip and prevent stiffness. You may also need occupational therapy to teach you the best ways to bathe and dress.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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