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Hip Replacement: the Ins and Outs

Joint pain is a serious medical issue. Sufferers live with chronic centralized pain that decreases their mobility and increases dependence on others for daily needs. Several causes impair the proper function of joints within the body. Hips are more susceptible to failure because of the high use and stress the joint is put under.

Damage to the hip joint occurs when a disease or injury degrades the bone and/or surrounding structure. This causes loss of ligaments and sustainable cartilage between bones. Bone on bone grinding, nerve damage, fracture, or total breakage leads to weakened joints.

Hip Replacement

Degenerative diseases of the body and injury that cause such failures include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Traumatic Arthritis
  • Paget’s Disease
  • Hip fractures
  • Bone displacement

Surgical hip replacement offers patients the option to lead more productive and largely pain- free lives. Total or partial replacement of the joint uses specialized medical grade synthetic structures. They are designed to look and function as part of the human body. They offer more substantial protection against further damage to surrounding areas of the affected joint.

As with all medical and surgical procedures, there are risks of joint replacement. The surgery itself carries inherent risks. These risks include side effects from the anaesthesia, blood clots, infection, confusion, fatigue and muscle atrophy. Most of these risks are low in most patients.

New joints have risks as well. They include adverse reaction to the body, loosening of the joint or dislocation, nerve damage and increased pain, shortening or lengthening of the treated leg. Again most of these risks are minor. The risks of surgery are weighed against other options.

Techniques

The approach the surgeon will use to replace all or part of a joint depends on the location and severity of the case. Each patient is different. Physicians tailor surgical procedures to each individual. Factors such as age, condition, tolerances to medication and severity of damage demand the proper technique.

  • Posterior
  • Lateral
  • Antero-internal
  • Anterior
  • Minimally invasive

The patient may wish to educate themselves about each approach and discus them with the surgeon. Understanding of the procedure can reduce stress and minimize the risk of failure. Post-operative healing is better tolerated.

Alternatives

Surgery is often a last resort option. Alternative measures must be exhausted first unless the severity of damage is too great. This can save a patient with relatively minor incapacitation unnecessary procedures and risks. Surgeons also agree if patients learn how to better their situation they will be more likely to be self-dependent and resourceful.

Conservative management utilizes pain medication with physical activity and therapy. It works to help delay and preserve the function of the joint. In minor cases, being active helps to strengthen muscles around damaged portion providing better support.

Hemiarthroplasty is an alternative surgical option to total hip replacement. It works by replacing a partial segment of the bone to keep more natural systems in place.

Hip resurfacing involves placing metal caps over the hip bone and conjoining surface. This allows for very little bone to be removed, preserving as much of the bone as possible. This has become a popular option in England over the last 20-years and has a high rate of success.

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