Total Hip Replacement

Total hip replacement surgery, or total hip arthroplasty is a surgical procedure whereby the hip socket and the top part of the femur is replaced with metallic and plastic parts. This type of surgery allows for a full replacement of a previously damaged hip joint, most commonly due to the effects of osteoarthritis.

Prior to the operation, the patient will meet with an anaesthetist; a specialist in perioperative medicine who will discuss the various anaesthetic options available. This procedure is typically performed under a general anaesthetic, which means that patients are unconscious for the length of the surgery. Depending on the extent of the operation, this procedure can also be performed with a type of regional anaesthetic, where the hip and leg is first numbed and light sedation given, ensuring that no pain is felt.

During the surgery the operating theatre staff will prepare the skin around the hip using an antiseptics solution. A 3-6 inch cut is then made over the side of your leg, and the muscles and tendons are carefully separated to allow access the pelvic bone. Using electric tools, the acetabulum (or socket joint) is filed down and a synthetic socket is then securely fitted directly into the old joint space.

The second part of the new joint is then prepared, this involves carefully removing the round top or head of your femur and inserting a metal stem down into it. This stem acts as the anchoring point for the new metal head which fits into place with the new socket. The two parts of the joint are finely engineered to fit perfectly together which forms the completed replacement hip joint.

The overlying muscles and soft tissues are then replaced back over the new joint. The skin is stitched together using dissolvable sutures and a local anaesthetic is injected in order to numb the site. Following the surgery patients are moved to the recovery room where a team of expert nurses will take over care.

Recovery times vary between patients, some people will recover very quickly, however it may be around six weeks before you can walk again completely unaided, and may take up to 3 months before the pain and swelling completely disappear. The goal of a total hip replacement is to improve quality of life and enable patients to do the activities in life that they love such as walking, cycling, playing golf or swimming.

For further reading:

The Royal College of Surgeons: Total Hip Replacement

Arthritis Research UK: Hip replacement surgery

OrthoInfo: Total Hip Replacement