Questions and Answers about Hip Replacement
What Are Alternatives to Total Hip Replacement?
Before considering a total hip replacement, the doctor may
try other methods of treatment, such as an exercise program and medication. An
exercise program can strengthen the muscles in the hip joint and sometimes
improve positioning of the hip and relieve pain.
The doctor also may treat inflammation in the hip with
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs. Some common NSAIDs are aspirin
and ibuprofen. Many of these medications are available without a prescription,
although a doctor also can prescribe NSAIDs in stronger doses.
In a small number of cases, the doctor may prescribe
corticosteroids, such as prednisone or cortisone, if NSAIDs do not relieve
pain. Corticosteroids reduce joint inflammation and are frequently used to
treat rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Corticosteroids are not
always a treatment option because they can cause further damage to the bones in
the joint. Some people experience side effects from corticosteroids such as
increased appetite, weight gain, and lower resistance to infections. A doctor
must prescribe and monitor corticosteroid treatment. Because corticosteroids
alter the body's natural hormone production, patients should not stop taking
them suddenly and should follow the doctor's instructions for discontinuing
If physical therapy and medication do not relieve pain and
improve joint function, the doctor may suggest corrective surgery that is less
complex than a hip replacement, such as an osteotomy. Osteotomy is surgical
repositioning of the joint. The surgeon cuts away damaged bone and tissue and
restores the joint to its proper position. The goal of this surgery is to
restore the joint to its correct position, which helps to distribute weight
evenly in the joint. For some people, an osteotomy relieves pain. Recovery from
an osteotomy takes 6 to 12 months. After an osteotomy, the function of the hip
joint may continue to worsen and the patient may need additional treatment. The
length of time before another surgery is needed varies greatly and depends on
the condition of the joint before the procedure.
What Does Hip Replacement Surgery Involve?
The hip joint is located where the upper end of the femur
meets the acetabulum. The femur, or thigh bone, looks like a long stem with a
ball on the end. The acetabulum is a socket or cup-like structure in the
pelvis, or hip bone. This "ball and socket" arrangement allows a wide
range of motion, including sitting, standing, walking, and other daily