The most common reason to have a hip joint replacement surgery is to provide relief for severe arthritis pain. The surgery is usually done in people age 60 and older. Other reasons for replacing the hip joint are fractures in the thigh bone or hip joint tumors.
Even when a hip replacement is needed, some medical problems may lead your doctor to recommend alternatives. Some of these problems include morbid obesity, very weak quadriceps, severe mental illness and unhealthy skin around the hip.
Hip replacement surgery results are usually excellent (97 percent success). Most or all of your pain and stiffness should go away after surgery. However, some people may have problems with infection or loosening or even dislocation of the new hip joint. Over time the artificial hip joint will loosen and a second replacement may be needed.
Not having surgery is always an alternative and there are effective treatments for hip replacement surgery that may help patients avoid the need for a total hip replacement. Non-surgical alternatives are physical therapy, walking aids, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, joint supplements and viscosupplementation. Viscosupplementation is the injection of an artificial lubricant into the joint.
Other surgical alternatives to hip replacement surgery include hip resurfacing, arthrodesis, osteotomy and arthroplasty.
Hip resurfacing surgery is an alternative to standard hip replacements for patients with severe arthritis. During the hip resurfacing procedure, only a small amount of bone is removed from the ball-and-socket hip joint and a metal cap is placed on top of the ball. A metal socket is placed in the pelvis, similar to the hip replacement procedure. This hip resurfacing preserves much more normal bone than a standard hip replacement. Hip resurfacing is gaining interest especially in younger patients.
Arthrodesis, also known as hip fusion, is a seldom performed procedure now that hip replacement has become so successful. Hip fusion surgery eliminates all motion at the hip joint by having the bones of the femur and pelvis heal together.