Step Back into Your Life with a Hip Replacement

Author: Derek Ward, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, MarinHealth
Step Back into Your Life with a Hip Replacement

Orthopedic surgeons have been performing hip replacements for more than a century, and the refinements to the procedure and prosthetics have been remarkable. By the late 1900s, hip replacement was known as “the surgery of the century” for its low complication rate and positive impact on quality of life. Today, roughly 450,000 total hip replacements are performed in the US each year. Patients are amazed at how soon they can get back to the activities they enjoyed before arthritis took over their lives.

Osteoarthritis is a progressive disease. In the early stages, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, or injections can help. Unfortunately, the hip joint continues to deteriorate, and it gets challenging to take the stairs, walk, or even put on your shoes. That’s when you and your doctor need to start talking about hip replacement.

We work closely with our patients, involving you in your care every step of the way. That starts with our free online Joint Replacement class that teaches you about your procedure. Once surgery is scheduled, we pair you with an expert nurse navigator to provide support and answer questions.

There are two basic surgical approaches to hip replacement: the classic posterior technique and the newer anterior technique. Many surgeons prefer the anterior approach because it does not require cutting through muscle, making recovery easier. Having patients on their backs during surgery also makes for clearer real-time imaging. However, outcomes are equally good with either approach.

Hip prostheses are made up of four parts, each of which comes in multiple sizes. While we use pre-operative software to size your implant to your individual bone structure, we have a range of sizes for each part on hand during surgery, allowing us to make any necessary tweaks. Surgery is performed under regional anesthesia, with patients unconscious but breathing on their own.

You can expect to go home the day of or the morning after your hip replacement. Post-surgery, pain management includes a combination of anti-inflammatories, acetaminophen, and a periarticular cocktail of medications injected directly into the hip. Most people also need opioids but are typically off of those within a week or two.

Physical therapy begins in-hospital. After that, needs vary widely—some people don’t need physical therapy at all!

Despite the huge advances in hip replacement techniques and technologies, some people assume there will be things they won’t be able to do with their new hip. However, most can return to all the activities they enjoy—even hiking and biking. Another concern is whether the implant will wear out in 10 or 15 years. Fortunately, today’s implants are built for the long haul. Fifty-something patients can expect their prosthesis to last for decades, if not for life.