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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. To learn more, go to Learning about Surgery to Repair 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.

What are the types of hip replacement surgery?


There are 3 types of hip replacement surgery. Your surgeon will talk with you about the type that’s best for you.

  • Total hip replacement: This surgery replaces the whole hip joint with new parts.
  • Hip resurfacing: This surgery replaces the damaged surfaces in the hip joint with new parts.
  • Hip revision: This surgery replaces old hip replacement parts with new ones if they get damaged or loose.
    Hip replacements can be cemented or uncemented.
    • 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?

Your healthcare team will help you move from your bed to a chair. They’ll also help you stand and walk within 4 hours of your surgery. You’ll be able to do more activity every day. You’ll also begin a program to make your hip stronger and help you gain more flexibility and range of movement.

  • Your physiotherapist will teach you how to use a walker or crutches and show you the exercises you need to do. Use your walker until your surgeon or physiotherapist says you can stop. Most people need to use one of these walking aids for the first 6 weeks after surgery.
  • Your healthcare team will check how well you can do the exercises on your own and move around. They’ll also check that you have the skills you need to manage at home. Your healthcare team uses this information to plan your leave from the hospital and what community services you may need at home.
  • Your healthcare team will tell you if you need physiotherapy after you leave the hospital. This depends on how well you’re recovering. Even if you don’t have physiotherapy once you’re at home, it’s still important to keep walking and doing your exercises.

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 healthcare team 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.

First 3 months after surgery

After 3 months
If you’re feeling ready 3 months after surgery, you might try some of the following activities you enjoy:
  • Swimming and other pool exercises (without any twisting movements, such as a whip kick).
  • Low-impact exercises that don’t involve jumping, twisting, quick starts or stops, or other movements that put a sudden force on your hip.
  • Walking on a treadmill.
  • Golfing, dancing, or hiking within your limits.
  • Riding a bike. (Put the seat and handlebars as high as you need to so it’s comfortable.)
  • Gardening. (Use a raised garden bed or long-handled tools to make gardening work easier.)
Activities to avoid
  • Don’t lift and push heavy objects (25 lbs. or 11 kg).
  • Don’t do any activities with jumping, twisting, quick starts or stops, or other movements that put a sudden force on your hip.
  • Don’t do contact sports (like hockey or football).
For more information on physiotherapy services in Alberta, go to Physiotherapy Services.

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?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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