Hip replacement surgery is performed to relieve severe pain that is limiting your activities. Most often the pain results from severe arthritis, but it may also be caused by injury, infection, or a chronic medical condition.

Doctors consider the following when deciding if a patient needs hip replacement surgery:

  • The hip pain is waking you up at night
  • The hip pain has not gotten better with other treatments, such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy or walking supports
  • The hip hurts even when resting
  • The hip pain limits or prevents normal activities, such as bathing, preparing meals, household chores and walking
  • Stiffness in the hip limits the ability to move or lift the leg
  • Older adults may have a hip replacement to treat a fracture in the thigh bone
  • Hip pain is caused by tumors in the hip joint

Types of Hip Replacement Surgery

The hip joint is made up of the hip socket and the round head on the top of the thigh bone, called the femoral head. Artificial sockets are usually made of durable plastic, ceramic or metal, and may have an outer metal shell. A highly polished metal or ceramic ball is used to replace the femoral head. The ball has a metal stem which attaches to the existing thigh bone. These are the three types of hip replacement:

  • Total hip replacement: Both the hip socket and the femoral head are replaced.
  • Partial hip replacement: Only one part of the hip joint is replaced, usually the femoral head.
  • Hip resurfacing: This is a newer procedure that is more common in younger patients. The hip socket is replaced as in total hip replacement, and the existing femoral head is covered with an artificial material.

Before deciding whether to perform a hip replacement, the doctor will likely run one or more tests to assess the damage to your hip, like an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan.

Risks and potential complications after hip replacement surgery include:

  • Infection at the incision site
  • Infection around the artificial joint
  • Blood clots in the leg veins or pelvis
  • One leg feeling longer or shorter than the other
  • Nerve and blood vessel injury
  • Stiffness in the hip joint
  • Bleeding
  • Fracture
  • Dislocation (the ball sliding out of the socket)