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Learning About Total Hip Replacement Surgery

Normal hip and total hip replacement

What is total hip replacement surgery?

During total hip replacement surgery, your doctor replaces the worn parts of your hip joint with artificial parts made of metal, ceramic, or plastic.

You may want this surgery if you have hip pain and trouble moving that you can't treat in other ways. Osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can cause these types of problems. Another cause is bone loss due to a poor blood supply.

Hip replacement is sometimes done after a hip fracture.

How is this surgery done?

Hip replacement surgery is done through one or two cuts (incisions). The cuts may be toward the front (anterior) of your hip, or they may be on the side or toward the back (posterior). You and your doctor can discuss which surgery is best for you.

You may have anesthesia to block pain and medicine to make you drowsy. Or you may get medicine to make you sleep. After making the incision, your doctor will:

  • Remove worn bone tissue and cartilage from the hip joint.
  • Replace the ball at the upper end of your thigh bone (femur).
  • Replace your hip socket with a shell and liner.
  • Fit the ball into the shell and liner to make a new hip joint.

There are two kinds of replacement joints.

  • Cemented joints. The cement fits between the new joint and the bone.
  • Uncemented joints. These have a metal coating with many small openings. The bone is shaped to fit the new joint almost perfectly. At first, there will be some small spaces between the bone and the new joint. Over time, the bone grows to fill these small openings.

Sometimes a doctor uses a cemented ball and an uncemented socket.

Your doctor can tell you which type of new hip joint is best for you.

What can you expect after a total hip replacement?

On the day of surgery, you'll learn how to get in and out of bed. You'll also learn how to walk with a walker, crutches, or a cane. By the time you leave the hospital, you'll be able to safely sit down and stand up, dress yourself, use the toilet, and bathe.

You'll also start physiotherapy. Your therapist will teach you exercises to help you get stronger. You'll learn ways to move your body without dislocating your hip.

During the first week or so after surgery, you will need less and less pain medicine. For a few weeks after surgery, you will probably take medicine to prevent blood clots.

Your doctor will tell you when you can walk on your own, drive, return to work, and get back to other activities.

It usually takes a few months to get back to full activity.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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