Top 6 Hip Replacement Myths
by Cory Calendine, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Hip and Knee Specialist
There will be approximately 400,000 hip replacements completed this year in the US and the number is rapidly increasing. Hip replacement surgical technique and implant design has advanced at a rapid pace, and many outdated hip replacement myths linger, especially on the internet. If you’re suffering with hip pain, don’t allow these misconceptions keep you from seeking advice from a qualified specialist.
1. It takes several months to recover from Hip Replacement
Improved anesthesia and surgical techniques mean hip replacement patients are able to ambulate within hours after surgery and many return home within 24 hours. A commitment to physical therapy and individualized aftercare guidelines will help ensure optimal outcomes.
Within (1) week after surgery, patients should expect to be ambulating safely with a walker or cane. Many patients are able to walk longer distances without assistance devices within 2-3 weeks of hip replacement. By week 4-6, most patients can return to work and enjoy sports including cycling, swimming and golf.
The recovery process after any major surgery is unique to each patient and dependent on many factors including preoperative condition, comorbid diseases and postoperative complications. Our team at the Bone and Joint Institute will follow your progress regularly after joint replacement and coordinate an individualized care plan designed to get you back in action as quickly as possible.
2. You’re too young for a hip replacement
Many people still associate hip replacements only with patients in their 70's or 80's. While hip replacements are more common later in life, they can be a benefit at any age, and the average hip replacement recipient age is becoming younger.
There was a time when hip replacements were seen as a short-term solution, and were therefore reserved for much later in life (to avoid the need for repeat surgery 10–15 years later). Due to advances in implant materials/design, surgical techniques and rehabilitation, hip replacements are lasting longer and providing patients with a more naturally functioning joint.
When non-surgical treatments have offered limited or no improvement joint replacement becomes an option to eliminate pain and stiffness, even at younger ages.
3. You’re too old for a hip replacement
Osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that worsens with age, is the most common reason for hip replacement. Some patients only experience debilitating symptoms after they have reached their 80s or 90s.
At older ages, some patients fear that they’re simply too old for a joint replacement and choose not to seek help from an orthopaedic surgeon. Regardless of age, no one should accept debilitating hip pain as a normal part of aging. There are many patients in their 80s and 90s that are able to safely undergo joint replacement surgery and enjoy a better quality of life as a result.
Age alone should not exclude anyone from surgery. During consultation, a surgeon will consider a full range of benefits and risk factors including age, general health and pre-existing medical conditions to determine your individualized treatment plan.
For any patient that is not a suitable candidate for hip replacement, there are other treatment options we can discuss to manage your symptoms.
4. Surgery should be delayed for as long as possible
Hip replacement is typically most appropriate after less invasive treatments have failed to provide joint pain relief. There is a small percentage of patients that may delay needed joint surgery due to worry about the impact or risk of major surgery.
Once joint disease has caused progressive pain and disability, delaying joint replacement can sometimes have significant physical and psychological consequences. In addition to delaying the benefits of surgery, a patient’s condition could deteriorate during a delay and increase the risk of surgical and postoperative complication.
An orthopaedic surgeon can help guide you through the decision-making process while reviewing the risks and benefits of each treatment option. It is true that modern hip replacements now last longer than ever before, and the likelihood of revision surgery for most (even younger) patients remains very low.
At the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee, our team strives to provide patients with as much time and information needed to consider treatment options and make an informed decision.
5. Your new hip won’t feel or function normally
It’s hard to believe that a metal or ceramic prosthesis could feel or function like a normal hip joint, but most patients report very little difference.
Immediately following surgery, patients often experience some swelling and discomfort around the incision, but typically the hip pain is dramatically improved.
Advances in surgical technique (surgical approach, 3D modeling, robotic-arm assistance) and joint implant designs, mean hip replacement has become a very individualized, precise surgical procedure. Improved implant positioning can provide for a more ‘natural’ feeling joint.
In terms of quality of life and pain relief, total hip replacement is one of the most successful orthopaedic procedures that surgeons perform today. Many patients return to and enjoy a wide range of activities, including cycling, yoga and swimming.
“Following surgery, I was anxious to get back to activities I had enjoyed previously prior to my hip pain becoming intolerable. The physical therapy was tough at times but more than worth it! I’m finally back to enjoying skiing and even running a few times a week.”
6. Hip replacements dislocate easily
Some patients are concerned about the risk of dislocating their hip following joint replacement. Dislocation is uncommon and has declined over time thanks to improved surgical approaches (Direct Anterior Approach) and superior implant design.
The risk for dislocation is greatest in the first few months after surgery while the tissues are healing. If the ball does come out of the socket, your surgeon can perform a procedure (called a closed reduction) that can often put it back into place without the need for more surgery. In situations in which the hip continues to dislocate, further surgery may be necessary.
While there are factors (BMI, age, neuromuscular disease) that can increase a patient’s risk of postoperative dislocation, implant dislocation following primary total hip replacement remains low risk (<2%).
If you are dealing regularly with debilitating joint pain, please don't hesitate to schedule a consult today. From physical therapy and joint injections to total joint replacement, our team at the Bone and Joint Institute of Tennessee with work with you to develop an individualized plan to get you back in action.