The hip joint is one of the largest joints in the human body and is a ball and socket joint.
The common symptoms related to problems with the hip joint are groin pain, difficulty walking, difficulty putting on shoes and socks or difficulty trying to cut your toe nails. It is not uncommon for hip pain to be confused with lower back symptoms. Occasionally problems with the hip can manifest with pain in the knee.
Do I need a hip replacement?
It might be necessary for you to have a hip replacement if one (or both) of your hip joints becomes damaged and causes you persistent pain or problems with everyday activities such as walking, driving and getting dressed.
Some common reasons why a hip joint can become damaged include:
- Osteoarthritis – so-called "wear and tear arthritis", where the cartilage inside a hip joint becomes worn away, leading to the bones rubbing against each other.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – this is caused by the immune system (the body’s defence against infection) mistakenly attacking the lining of the joint, resulting in pain and stiffness .
- Hip fracture – if a hip joint becomes severely damaged during a fall or similar accident it may be necessary to replace it.
Many of the conditions treated with a hip replacement are age-related so hip replacements are often carried out in older adults, although they are becoming more common in the younger age group.
The purpose of a new hip joint is to:
- Relieve pain
- Improve the function of your hip
- Improve your ability to move around
- Improve your quality of life
What happens during hip replacement surgery?
A hip replacement can be carried out under a general anaesthetic (where you are asleep during the procedure) or a spinal anaesthetic (where the lower body is numb).
The surgeon makes an incision into the hip, removes the damaged hip joint and then replaces it with an artificial joint.
The hip joint is replaced by either a cemented or uncemented hip prosthesis. Various combinations of materials can be used during a hip replacement and the most appropriate implant is determined on an individual patient basis. The surgery usually takes around 60-90 minutes to complete.
Recovering from hip replacement surgery
For the first four to six weeks after the operation you may require a walking aid such as crutches or a frame to help support you. You will be enrolled on an exercise programme that is designed to help you regain and then improve the use of your new hip joint. Most people are able to resume normal activities within two to three months but it can take up to a year before you experience the full benefits of your new hip.