Many people have hip pain, but not everyone will need hip replacement. For those who do need it, hip replacement surgery can have a profound impact on the patient, relieving pain, increasing mobility and functionality, and improving quality of life. In others, conservative treatments are sufficient.
How does someone with hip pain or disability know if they need hip replacement? To help people answer this question for themselves, we will discuss the reasons for hip replacement and the benefits of hip replacements in general. By the end of this discussion, you should be able to answer the question of “why have a hip replacement?” and begin to decide if hip replacement surgery is right for you.
Do You Need Hip Replacement?
Most people with arthritis of the hip and other degenerative diseases that affect the hip joint do not need hip replacement surgery right away. Often, their symptoms can be treated with physical therapy, steroid injections, anti-inflammatory medications, and other conservative interventions. Importantly, these conservative treatments do not cure hip arthritis, but they can make the pain more tolerable and improve function.
For example, targeted physical therapy for hip arthritis can help strengthen the muscles that surround the hip joint. This can help stabilize the joint, which may lead to less pain, especially in the lower back. Moreover, physical therapy can help people with hip arthritis preserve range of motion in the hip. Simply stated, arthritis of the hip tends to reduce the amount the hip joint moves, and physical therapy can help combat that process.
Anti-inflammatory medications and steroid injections help reduce inflammation in the hip joint. While these medications do not reverse bone and joint damage, they can reduce swelling and block the sensation of pain.
Unfortunately, conservative treatments for hip arthritis become less and less effective as the disease progresses. Anti-inflammatory medications, even prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) do not quite relieve the pain. Likewise, steroid injections can only be given so often. So when they wear off, people with hip pain may suffer for months until the next injection. Lastly, physical therapy becomes increasingly difficult when there is pain in the hip. At a certain point, people cannot participate with their therapy because of pain.
Once conservative treatments fail to provide relief, doctors turn to hip replacement surgery. If you are experiencing chronic hip pain, decreased range of motion in the hip joint, chronic low back pain due to problems in the hip joint, or hip problems that are keeping you from daily activities, it may indicate you need hip replacement.
Reasons for Hip Replacement
While there are several reasons for hip replacement, surgeons usually consider the following four indications for hip replacement surgery (hip arthroplasty):
- Hip pain or stiffness that limits daily activities
- Hip pain that persists at rest
- Hip stiffness that limits the normal range of motion in the joint (e.g. the person cannot lift the affected leg)
- Conservative treatments did not provide adequate hip pain relief
Severe pain in the hip is one of the reasons for hip replacement, but it is not necessary to have severe hip pain to be considered for hip replacement surgery. All that is required is significant disability because of the hip joint.
The Benefits of Hip Replacements
Total hip arthroplasty (the medical term for hip replacement surgery) is one of the most successful orthopedic surgery procedures currently performed. It is considered highly “successful” because it can dramatically relieve pain, restore function, and improve the patient’s quality of life. To provide an example of what this means, 9 out of 10 people who underwent hip replacement surgery are pain-free, have fully functioning artificial joints, and suffered no complications when followed 10 to 15 years after surgery.1
Another of the many benefits of hip replacements is that the implants are durable. There is a 1 percent risk that patients will need a revision of their artificial joint each year2, and some joints last up to 25 years (perhaps more). Perhaps the most important of the benefits of hip replacements is patient satisfaction, though — patient satisfaction after hip replacement surgery (total hip arthroplasty) is extremely high.3
If You Think You May Need Hip Replacement, Consult With an Expert
The orthopedic surgeons at Regional Orthopedics are highly specialized in treating hip pain and disability. Even if you don’t need hip replacement surgery, our surgeons can provide an accurate diagnosis on site and generate a personalized treatment plan that meets your specific needs. Please contact Regional Orthopedics for a consultation today.