Has your orthopedic surgeon suggested that hip replacement surgery may be the best plan for you to rid yourself of the kind of chronic hip pain which arthritis often brings – the kind that really affects your quality of life?
If you have been told you are a candidate for joint replacement surgery of the hip, it is because a medical professional who is an expert in hip arthritis is making the recommendation. Because an orthopedist has experience in performing successful hip replacement operations and is up-to-date on the latest procedures and technology, this type of physician is your best source of information.
Well-meaning friends may want to share stories they’ve heard, and searching the internet can bring you lots of misinformation if you are not visiting respected sites in orthopedic medicine. So, the best advice you can receive is from an experienced orthopedic surgeon.
Let’s clear up some of the most common misunderstandings about hip replacements:
There Is No “Right” Age for Hip Replacement (Old or Young)
Yes, it is true that the older you are, the more at risk you are of needing a hip replacement. But there are other risk factors too. Women need this surgery more often than men do, and having a family history of hip surgery tends to put you at greater risk. Additionally, any prior hip injury you’ve had, like a hip fracture, will potentially lead to the eventual need for replacement surgery.
Obesity, hip impingement, rheumatoid arthritis, having a very strenuous occupation, and playing sports (especially professionally) are all things that can lead to enough damage in your hip for you to need hip replacement surgery. However, your orthopedic surgeon will let you know whether or not you need a hip replacement because everyone is different. A 40-year-old woman may need a hip replacement because she has rheumatoid arthritis, while a healthy 80-year-old woman may be doing just fine with her natural hip.
Regardless of your age, if your chronic hip pain is making it difficult for you to move around, is causing trouble sleeping, or is not responding well to noninvasive or nonsurgical treatments, it may be time for hip replacement surgery. If your orthopedic surgeon has evaluated you and done X-rays confirming that your hip is severely damaged, you will likely warrant this surgery regardless of your age.
Hip replacement surgery is performed very often on both older and younger individuals. Before the surgery, if your doctors have cleared you medically, and if you have followed your pre-op instructions, you should be targeting a successful surgery that will lead to a better quality of life.
All Hip Replacements Are Not the Same
First of all, no two people are the same, so your orthopedic surgeon will customize your hip replacement specifically for you. During a hip replacement, your surgeon will remove the damaged portions of your joint and replace them with artificial parts (prostheses).
Different prosthetic models are made of metal, ceramic, plastic, or a combination of these materials. Your orthopedic surgeon will choose the one that is best for you, and the preoperative planning will include precise measurements to be able to recreate the anatomy of your hip with the replacement pieces.
Your surgeon may recommend minimally invasive surgery, which lessens the length of incisions (and therefore creates smaller scars), reduces the amount of likely blood loss during surgery, and improves recovery time afterward as compared to traditional older open surgery techniques.
The Newer Hip Replacements Can Last for Years and Technology Is Constantly Improving
Many people are afraid of having hip replacement surgery if they are young because they assume that the prosthesis may not last and so it will have to be re-done later. It is true that a hip prosthesis can wear down like a natural joint would, and also in other ways, so it is important to stay in shape and to get your regular medical checkups to keep your joints healthy, whether the joint is natural or prosthetic.
The lifespan of an artificial hip has improved greatly over the years. The first hip replacement surgery was performed in the 1960s, and medical technology has come a long way. This surgery is one of the most commonly performed and the most successful orthopedic surgery performed today.
Plus, the prosthetic materials and surgical techniques have improved. At one time, it was estimated that a replaced hip would last about 10-15 years, but now we’re potentially looking at 20-25 years or more.
Complications Are Not the Norm in Hip Replacement Surgery
Every surgery comes with inherent risks, and hip replacement surgery is no exception. However, your doctor has recommended surgery because after weighing the benefits to possible risks, they have concluded that replacing your joint is your best option.
One of the best ways to avoid complications during and after your operation is by adequately preparing for the surgery. If you are overweight, eat healthily and try to lose some weight. If you smoke, quit. Your surgeon may even recommend physical therapy or exercise before surgery to improve your results. You may be asked to stop taking some or all of your medications within the days before the surgery, depending on how critical they are to your daily functioning.
After surgery, follow your surgeon’s instructions in order to enjoy a complication-free recovery. Take your medications exactly as prescribed, and follow your physical therapy recommendations to foster proper circulation and to help prevent blood clots while your joint heals.
Pain Should Not Be Accepted as Inevitable in Life
Growing older is not a disease. It is a natural part of life, and pain does not have to be a part of it. Your hips do a lot of work during your lifetime, so arthritis is one of the most common causes of hip pain. Surgery may be the right solution to relieving that pain on a more long-term basis.
Before surgery ever becomes necessary, there are many ways to treat the pain of arthritis. Regular exercise, including warm-ups and stretching, supports healthy joints. Maintaining a healthy weight takes stress off of your hips. Physical therapists also have many different treatments they can use to treat pain, including rest, ice, and heat – and your orthopedic surgeon has options such as therapeutic injections or medications to treat your pain.
If your hip joint damage is significant enough, hip replacement surgery may be the best answer to enjoy significant relief. Don’t accept anyone telling you that pain is just something you have to live with.
You’ll Be Up and Moving Faster than You Think
Don’t think you’ll remain lying down long after surgery. On the same day as the procedure, within just a matter of hours, you’ll be walking with your physical therapist with the aid of a walker, and you will progress at your own pace from there.
You’ll have regular outpatient physical therapy sessions to guide your recovery and expect to do physical therapy exercises multiple times daily at home as well. Most people will be resuming many of their regular lifestyle activities within weeks to months, and possibly even sooner.
Your activity level will progress to low-impact exercises like walking to build up your strength. You’ll be driving once you are off pain medications and safe from a physical therapy standpoint. You will notice the greatest improvement within the first several months, and most people continue to improve and get stronger for up to 12 months after a hip replacement procedure.
Hip Replacement Does Not Necessarily Require Hospitalization
In the past, hip replacements generally meant staying about 3 days in the hospital. But more and more joint replacement surgeries are now being done on an outpatient basis, whereby recovery can begin at home on the very same day as your surgery. Even when done at the hospital, patients typically just stay overnight and go home the following day. Minimally invasive procedures and advances in knowledge and technology have allowed hip replacement surgery to be much less invasive.
Your Days of Sports and Fun Do Not Have to End
The most important thing to know about activity after hip replacement surgery is what your orthopedic surgeon says. They have firsthand knowledge of your joint and your overall health. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, golf, and biking may be tolerated and safe, but high-impact activities and strenuous manual labor may be out or come later with more strength and endurance built up.
But let’s face it: The fact that your hip was damaged to the point that you required a hip replacement meant that these types of activities were most likely already difficult or off the table anyway. As far as fun goes, living in pain is not a great way to have fun. So, enjoy your new mobility again, and yes ladies, you can even expect high heels in your future again.
Your New Hip Should Feel Natural and the Materials In It Won’t Hurt You
Any materials placed in your body have been thoroughly studied, tested, and approved by the FDA. Even after this approval, constant monitoring of possible negative effects is ongoing and reported, which is why you occasionally hear news about medical treatments coming off the market.
Your orthopedic surgeon is not going to put something into your body that is harmful to you. While some metals in the new prosthetic joint may be absorbed some by your body, the amount is typically insignificant and unharmful. In addition, if you are in the small minority of patients who have an allergy or sensitivity to certain metals, be sure to discuss this with your orthopedic surgeon so that implants can be selected that avoid those specific substances.
Hip Replacement Surgeon in Raleigh
Don’t let misconceptions keep you from alleviating your pain. Hip replacement surgery is available to you if you need it, and it has been performed on millions of patients for many decades with great success.
If you have any questions about hip replacement surgery, our friendly team is here to answer them. To seek the expert advice and orthopedic service of Dr. Brett Gilbert to address your unique concerns, contact us today by calling us at (919) 788-8797 or request an appointment online, and anticipate living pain-free once again!