Also known as hip arthroplasty, hip replacement surgery can be beneficial to those with severe hip pain, helping to relieve symptoms and provide greater range of movement. However, the procedure isn't without its risks. Prospective patients should talk to their doctors and do their own research before deciding to proceed. The following is a guide to help weigh the risks and rewards of hip replacement surgery.

Who Gets Hip Replacement Surgery?

In 2005, more than 230,000 hip replacements were performed in the United States, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The procedure is typically indicated for people with severe hip damage and is usually considered only after other therapies, such as medication, have failed.

Most people who need hip replacement surgery suffer from osteoarthritis, but some may require hip replacement after a serious injury, such as a fall or car accident. Hip replacement surgeries are most common in those 65 and older; however, younger adults may require the procedure after experiencing a sports injury or severe accident.

You may be a candidate for hip surgery, if you regularly experience any of the following problems:

  • Pain that medications don't relieve;
  • Trouble standing and/or walking;
  • Trouble walking up or down stairs; or
  • Pain that prevents you from sleeping at night.

What Happens During Hip Replacement?

The surgery involves replacing the "ball" of your hip with a prosthesis. The prosthetic parts are designed to mimic the natural movements of the hip joint. Artificial hip joints come in a variety of sizes to fit any individual, so the surgeon will chose the joint that's best for the patient. The prosthesis is composed of several different materials designed to make it biocompatible or accepted by the body.

The surgery itself usually takes between two and three hours. During that time, the patient is under general or regional anesthesia. After the surgery, the patient is moved to a recovery area until the anesthesia wears off.

What Happens After Hip Replacement?

Hip replacement surgery has a 90 percent success rate. After the surgery, the patient usually remains in the hospital for a few days to be monitored. When the patient is ready, he or she may be asked to perform tasks such as sitting up or walking with the assistance of crutches or a walker. Oftentimes, a physical therapist will help with recovery to assist the patient in regaining the range of motion he or she had before the surgery.

In general, the more active the patient is after the surgery, the quicker the recovery period is. As time passes, the patient will be able to perform more tasks, eventually resulting in a full recuperation. Although high-impact exercises, such as those involving running or jumping, may be limited, activities such as walking, light hiking, swimming, and playing golf are often encouraged.

Potential Risks of Hip Replacement

Complications are rare following hip surgery; however, as with any surgery, there are certain risks.

1. Blood clots.

Blot clotting in the veins of the legs is the most common complication involved with hip surgery. As long as the clots remain in the legs, the problem is minor. On rare occasions, the clot will dislodge and travel to the heart, resulting in a pulmonary embolism. The chances of this happening, however, are slim.

2. Infection.

Infection is more common following hip replacement surgery than most surgeries. Because of this, hospital take special precautions. The operating room is likely to have special filters to provide clean, bacteria-free air. The surgeon and attendants may wear sterile suits. Often, antibiotics are given before, during, and after the operation to help lower the rate of infection.

3. Loosening.

Another complication that may result after surgery is the loosening of the prosthesis from the bone. It may be due to the health of your bones, your weight, how active you are, and the overall design of the implant.

4. Joint stiffening.

Sometimes the soft tissue surrounding the joint may harden, resulting in stiffening of the joint. Although this usually isn't painful, it may be uncomfortable and make it difficult to walk or to stand up when seated.