Is hip pain keeping you from the things you enjoy?
New surgical techniques and advanced materials are changing the way patients view…
Hip Replacement Surgery
The hip is the second largest load-bearing joint in the body, next to the knee. This ball and socket joint at the juncture of the leg and the pelvis has ligaments connecting the ball to the socket to provide stability, and a layer of cartilage to cushion the ends of the bones and allow for smooth movement. While the hip joint is designed to withstand repeated motion and everyday wear and tear, like the knee, it isn’t indestructible. Over time as the cartilage that cushions the hip bones breaks down, and bone starts to wear against bone, the result is pain, stiffness and reduced range of motion. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common causes of hip joint deterioration, along with hip trauma.
For over a quarter of a million Americans each year, hip pain has become so severe and interferes with their daily lives to such a degree, they turn to hip replacement surgery. Great advancements have been made in the last 5 years in hip replacement surgery. Perhaps the greatest breakthroughs have been the advanced implant materials and much better hip surface bearings that greatly reduce wear, significantly increasing the longevity of the hip replacement. Another important factor is improvement in pain management techniques that have contributed to the overall comfort for patients during recovery.
The hip replacement procedures patients are undergoing today and the implant materials used to take the place of deteriorated cartilage, are actually changing how patients view hip replacement surgery. New, less invasive methods and tissue sparing approaches have resulted in less bleeding and scarring, and shorter recovery times; and new materials have extended the life expectancy of the hip replacement surgery. Today, ever younger patients who are already experiencing chronic hip pain, are opting to undergo hip replacement surgery at younger ages.
According to Brian P. Johnson, M.D., Fellowship-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon at Mississippi Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Jackson, a big factor in the change in the demographic of hip replacement surgery patients is the aging of the baby boomer generation.
“The average age of a hip replacement surgery patient is still age 60 to early 70s, but we are seeing increasingly greater numbers of patients who are in their early 60s and even 50s,”explains Dr. Johnson. “As the baby boomers, many of whom have stayed physically active, start having the kind of hip pain that can severely impede their active lifestyles, they are simply not willing to “hang in there” until their late 60’s or 70’s for relief. The fact that the implants we are using now can be expected to last 25 to 30 years, helps to make the decision even easier.”
When should you consider having hip replacement surgery?
When a person is having chronic pain that is preventing them from being active and carrying on their daily responsibilities, it is time to seek help.
Dr. Johnson recommends that the first thing a patient should do is see their primary care physician or a fellowship-trained orthopaedic specialist.
“If you have been putting off getting help for hip pain, you need to think about how it might be affecting your overall health,” Johnson notes. “For example, have you stopped getting regular exercise because of the pain? Have you gained weight due to inactivity? Is chronic pain causing you to feel depressed? When the pain is affecting every aspect of your life, it can contribute to other serious health problems.”
If your pain and loss of function have become severe and medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other treatments no longer relieve pain, your physician may recommend joint replacement surgery. Your doctor will use X-rays to examine the bones and cartilage in your hip to see whether they are damaged, and to make sure that the pain isn’t coming from somewhere else.
You might not be a good candidate for hip replacement surgery if you:
• Have poor general health and may not tolerate anesthetic and surgery well.
• Have an active infection or are at high risk for infection.
• Have osteoporosis (significant thinning of the bones).
• Are involved in heavy manual labor or physically demanding sports.
• Are severely overweight (replacement joints may be more likely to fail in people who are very overweight).
Your doctor will look at your individual case – your present state of health and medical history to make a determination.
How has recovery from joint replacement surgery changed?
According to Dr. Johnson, “You can expect to get up and walk with the assistance of a walker on the day of surgery. A lot has to do with your personal motivation. The time you spend using the walker can be anywhere from just two to seven days. And, you could possibly be back to full weight bearing without assistance in two weeks.”
“Patients differ in the length of time it takes them for each post-operative step, but your attitude and your initiative can make a big difference,” adds Johnson. “Pre-operative education also is a crucial part of the process so you know what to expect at each stage, and what you can do to speed your own recovery.”
Don’t suffer, get help.
If there is an underlying theme that readers should take away from this article, it is the fact that help is available, and you should seek it. Strides in technology have made hip replacement surgery an option that is hard to overlook, if your physician says you are a good candidate.
“The most frequent comment I hear from my hip replacement patients, is ‘why did I wait so long to have it,’” concludes Dr. Johnson. “There really is no reason to suffer when there is so much we can do for chronic hip pain. Talk to your doctor. You have your life ahead of you and you can start enjoying it again without pain.”
Brian P. Johnson, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, received a Bachelor of Science Degree from the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He entered medical school at the Medical College of Virginia, where he received his Doctor of Medicine degree. Dr. Johnson’s professional training in Orthopaedic surgery includes a one-year general surgery internship at Louisiana State University. He completed his Orthopaedic surgery residency at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, WA, and completed a fellowship in joint replacement surgery at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Dr. Johnson is Board Certified in Orthopaedic surgery.