What's it like: To get hip replacement surgery

Joint degeneration from age, wear or disease can drive a doctor's decision to replace your hip joint. Learn what the surgery and recovery is like.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: February 24, 2013 at 1:12 am •  Published: February 24, 2013

Why get your hip replaced?

Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder and is one of the common causes of a hip replacement. It's is the result of aging and wear and tear on a joint. Being overweight increases the risk of osteoarthritis because carrying the extra weight can cause damage.

Most people who get a hip replacement are older than 60 and receive the surgery for degenerative reasons like this. The term degenerative refers to an age-related condition in which something breaks down over time.

People younger than 50 might undergo hip replacement surgery if they suffer from a hip injury caused from a traumatic accident. People who suffer from lupus might also end up needing a hip replacement. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes your body's immune system to attack your own tissues and organs.

What happens?

There is a variety of different types of equipment used in hip replacement surgery.

You will be placed under general anesthesia, so you will be unconscious for the surgery. You might be flipped onto your side with the hip that the surgeon is operating on pointing upward.

Each surgeon differs on how he or she will perform the surgery, but posterolateral approach is a common approach used in hip replacement surgeries. To begin the surgery, the surgeon might cut near where your pant pocket would be and go down the side of the leg, entering the hip from the back.

Your surgeon will split your gluteal muscles, near your upper buttocks, and release some of your hip muscles to access the hip bones. To place the hip implant, the medical team will remove the femoral head, or the top part of the thigh bone that looks like a ball.

They will also ream out the acetabulum and reshape it. The acetabulum is the area commonly referred to as your “hip socket.” Once they're finished reshaping it, your medical team will place a new socket inside of it. This is where the implanted femoral head will go.

Your hip prosthesis will consist of a ball component made of metal or ceramic, and a socket — an insert or liner made of plastic, ceramic or metal.

Does it hurt?

Before the surgery, many patients are in pain and limited in how much they can move without experiencing pain.

Pain after surgery is variable and not entirely predictable. After the surgery, you likely will be prescribed prescription pain medication to help you manage your pain. Most patients take these drugs for one to three weeks.


by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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