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Arthritis and Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgery is a procedure in which a doctor surgically removes a painful hip joint with arthritis and replaces it with an artificial joint often made from metal and plastic components. It usually is done when all other treatment options have failed to provide adequate pain relief. The procedure should relieve a painful hip joint, making walking easier.

Hip

What Happens During Hip Replacement Surgery?

Hip replacement surgery can be performed traditionally or by using what is considered a minimally-invasive technique. The main difference between the two procedures is the size of the incision.

During standard hip replacement surgery, you are given general anesthesia to relax your muscles and put you into a temporary deep sleep. This will prevent you from feeling any pain during the surgery or have any awareness of the procedure. A spinal anesthetic may be given to help prevent pain as an alternative.

The doctor will then make a cut along the side of the hip and move the muscles connected to the top of the thighbone to expose the hip joint. Next, the ball portion of the joint is removed by cutting the thighbone with a saw. Then an artificial joint is attached to the thighbone using either cement or a special material that allows the remaining bone to attach to the new joint.

The doctor then prepares the surface of the hipbone -- removing any damaged cartilage -- and attaches the replacement socket part to the hipbone. The new ball part of the thighbone is then inserted into the socket part of the hip. A drain may be put in to help drain any fluid. The doctor then reattaches the muscles and closes the incision.

While most hip replacement surgeries today are performed using the standard technique (one 8 to 10 inch cut along the side of the hip), in recent years, some doctors have been using a minimally-invasive technique. In the minimally-invasive approach, doctors make one to two cuts from 2 to 5 inches long. The same procedure is performed through these small cuts as with standard hip replacement surgery.

The small cuts are thought to lessen blood loss, ease pain following surgery, shorten hospital stays, reduce scar appearance, and speed healing.

However, it's important that the surgeon be highly skilled in this technique. Research has shown the outcomes with minimally-invasive approach may be worse than with standard hip replacement surgery if done by a doctor who is not very experienced with this technique.

Since there can be some blood loss during hip replacement surgery, you may need a blood transfusion, so you may want to consider donating your own blood before the procedure.

What Happens After Hip Replacement Surgery?

You will likely stay in the hospital for four to six days and may have to stay in bed with a wedge-shaped cushion between your legs to keep the new hip joint in place. A drainage tube will likely be placed in your bladder to help you go to the bathroom. Physical therapy usually begins the day after surgery and within days you can walk with a walker, crutches, or a cane. You will continue physical therapy for weeks to months following the surgery.

WebMD Medical Reference

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