Total Hip Replacement
The first step when making the decision about hip replacement is to meet with your surgeon to see if you are a candidate for total hip replacement surgery. Your surgeon will take your medical history, perform a physical examination and X-ray your hip. Even if the pain is significant, and the X-rays show advanced arthritis of the joint, the first line of treatment is nearly always non-operative. This includes weight loss if appropriate, an exercise regimen, medication, injections, or bracing. If the symptoms persist despite these measures, and with corroborating X-rays, then you may consider surgery.
The decision to move forward with surgery is not always straight forward and usually involves a thoughtful conversation with yourself, your loved ones and ultimately your surgeon. The final decision rests on you based on the pain and disability from the arthritis influencing your quality of life and daily activities. Those who decide to proceed with surgery commonly report that their symptoms keep them from participating in activities that are important to them like walking, taking stairs, working, sleeping, putting on socks and shoes, sitting for long periods of time. Surgery is the next option when non-operative treatments have failed. Below are answers to the most common questions about total hip replacement surgery.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it last?
Are all hip replacement implants the same?
Is surgery and recovery very painful?
Pain following total hip replacement has come a long way over the last 10-15 years with increased use of regional nerve blocks, spinal blocks, and various other modalities used for pain control. Total hip replacement is generally considered to be less painful than total knee replacement. Early range of motion and rapid rehabilitation protocols are also designed to reduce early stiffness and pain, making the procedure in general much less painful than in years past. You may have relatively mild pain following the procedure, or you may have a more difficult time than others. Everyone is unique and handles and perceives pain differently. Keep in mind that while pain management has greatly improved, a pain-free surgery is unlikely. You will want to take your pain medicines as directed by your surgeon.
What is minimally invasive surgery?
Minimally invasive surgery is a term that describes a combination of reducing the incision length and lessening tissue disruption beneath the incision. This includes cutting less muscle and detaching less tendon from bone. There have also been advancements in anesthesia and pain management during and after surgery. All of these practices allow you to feel better, have less pain, and regain function faster than in the recent past. While there may be some early advantages to minimally invasive surgery, as long as the components are placed correctly, traditional surgery ultimately leads to similar outcomes by three months post-operatively.
My surgeon talks about “approach.” What is this?
Will my surgeon use a computer, robot, or custom cutting guide in my surgery?
How big will my scar be?
The size of the incision can vary and depends on several factors that include the size of the patient, the complexity of the surgery, and surgeon preference. Most studies have shown that smaller incisions offer no improvement in pain or recovery and may actually worsen the surgeon’s ability to adequately perform the procedure.
Will I need physical therapy, and if so, for how long?
Initially, you will receive some physical therapy while in the hospital. Depending on your preoperative conditioning and support, you may or may not need additional therapy as an outpatient. Much of the therapy after hip replacement is walking with general stretching and thigh muscle strengthening, which you can do on your own without the assistance of a physical therapist.
What restrictions will I have after surgery?
When can I return to work?
Returning to work is highly dependent on your general health, activity level and demands of your job. If you have a sedentary job, such as computer work, you can expect to return to work in four to six weeks. If you have a more demanding job that requires lifting, walking, or travel, you may need up to three months for full recovery
When can I drive?
Most surgeons allow patients to drive at four to six weeks after surgery, and sometimes sooner if the operative leg is the left leg. There is some literature that states that your reaction time will not be back to normal prior to six weeks. You should not drive while on narcotics, and should discuss returning to driving with your operating surgeon.
When can I walk after surgery?
Most surgeons and hospitals today emphasize getting you out of bed quickly. Most people are walking with the assistance of a walker on the day after surgery. Early ambulation has been shown to reduce the risk of a post-operative blood clot and is an important part of your recovery. Progression to using a cane or nothing at all typically occurs within the first month or two after surgery and depends on each individual’s progress. Despite the rapid progression to moving without assistance, it is typically not recommended that you return to sporting activities until the third month after surgery.
When can I shower?
Most surgeons do not like the wound to be exposed to water for five to seven days; however, more surgeons are using waterproof dressings that allow patients to shower the day after surgery. You can remove the dressing at seven to ten days after surgery. Once you remove the dressings, you still shouldn’t soak the wound until the incision is completely healed three to four weeks later. Either way, it is important to discuss this with your surgeon to be assured when it is safe to shower and what wound closure technique/dressings will be used for your surgical wound.
How long does it take to recover?
The majority of people who undergo total hip replacement are able to participate in a majority of their daily activities by six weeks. By three months, most people have regained much the endurance and strength lost around the time of surgery, and can participate in daily activities without restriction. While daily activities have resumed, it is important to avoid high impact activities to give you the best long-term outcome with your hip.
How long will I stay in the hospital?
You will likely stay in the hospital for one to three days depending on your rehabilitation protocol and how fast you progress with physical therapy. This is highly dependent upon your condition before surgery, your age, and medical problems which can influence your rehabilitation. A safe discharge plan will be arranged for you by the orthopaedic team.
Will I need general anesthesia?
While general anesthesia is a safe option, both hip and knee replacements can be performed under regional anesthesia. Choices for regional anesthesia include spinal anesthesia, epidural anesthesia, or one of a variety of peripheral nerve blocks. Many surgeons and anesthesiologists prefer regional anesthesia because data shows it can reduce complications and improve your recovery experience with less pain, less nausea, less narcotic medicine required, etc. Recently, peripheral nerve blocks have become more popular as an adjunct for pain control. For total knee replacement this can include an adductor canal block, which allows pain control without causing weakness of your muscles. You should have a discussion regarding anesthesia and post-operative pain management with your surgeon and anesthesia team prior to your surgery.
*All Information provided by The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons