hip and knee care

Understanding Hip Replacement Surgery

What to know about the procedure

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket type joint formed where the thigh bone (femur) meets the three bones that make up the pelvis. The ball portion of the hip joint (femoral head) fits into the socket (acetabulum) of the hip bone (pelvis).

The bone of the hip joint and socket of the pelvis are separated by spongy material (articular cartilage) and by a small amount of fluid in the hip, both of which lubricate the joint and allow the bones to move against each other easily and without pain. Large ligaments, tendons and muscles around the hip joint (also called the joint capsule) also help to hold the ball and socket in place and keep them from dislocating.

A properly functioning hip joint is critical for normal everyday activities such as walking, running and climbing.

The cause of hip pain

Arthritic conditions such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are among the most common causes of hip pain, especially in older adults. Arthritis leads to inflammation of the hip joint and the breakdown of the cartilage that normally cushions your hip bones.

The pain gradually gets worse as the arthritis progresses. People with arthritis also feel stiffness and have reduced range of motion in the hip.

What is a total hip replacement?

Total hip replacement involves surgery to replace the ends of both bones in a damaged joint to create new joint surfaces.

During your total hip replacement, your orthopedic surgeon will make an incision over the side of your hip. They will then remove sections of the damaged bone of your hip and replace them with prosthetic components. These prosthetic components may consist of metal, polyethelene or ceramic materials.

The worn femoral head is replaced with a metal stem and a metal or ceramic ball. The stem is placed into the hollow center of the femur and the ball is fitted on the upper part of the metal stem. This ball replaces the damaged femoral head that was removed.

At the same time, the hip socket in your pelvis will also be replaced with a metal shell and a plastic or ceramic liner is inserted between the new ball and the metal socket to allow for a smooth gliding surface. Your orthopedic surgeon will decide which prosthesis will best meet your needs.

When the surgeon is satisfied with the fit and function, the incision will be cleaned and covered with dressings. You may also find small drainage tubes to drain fluid from the wound after surgery. The tubes will be taken out before you leave the hospital.

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