Frequently ask questions about hip replacement

What is a total hip replacement?

When the hip joint has worn to the point when it no longer does its job, an artificial hip (called a prosthesis) made of metal and plastic can take its place. The surgery to implant the prosthesis is termed a total hip replacement. The hip replacement recreates the normal function of the hip. While the idea of getting an artificial hip joint may be frightening to some, it is one of the safest and most effective medical procedures.

Who should have a total hip replacement?

Total hip replacement is recommended for arthritic patients with severe pain and limited function.

What are the benefits of hip replacement?

The most apparent benefit of hip replacement is dramatic pain relief. Almost all patients have complete, or near complete, relief of pain. As the pain lessens, function also improves. Most patients have better range of motion and limp less.

What are the potential problems?

The most common complications of total hip surgery can now largely be avoided. Before surgery each patient receives a complete medical examination by a doctor, as well as routine testing.

Possible local complications include: loosening, wear or breakage of the prosthesis, hip dislocation, infection, pain, stiffness, leg length inequality, delayed healing of bone and soft tissues, and heterotopic bone formation. Other rare complications include fracture of the femur or acetabulum, nerve and vascular injury.

Medical complications include: thrombophlebitis, pulmonary embolism (blood clot), urological complications and even death (0.1%) Other rare complications, which can be encountered with any surgery, include cardiac, digestive and lung problems.

What is the short-term outlook after total hip replacement?

In general, most patients take six weeks to three months to recover after a hip replacement and experience pain relief and improvement in function. However, improvements can be realized for over a year after the operation. In rare cases, patients with uncemented hips have noted a mild degree of thigh discomfort that persists for six to twelve months after surgery during the period of bone ingrowth. For the most part, however, this pain disappears with time.

What is the long-term outlook?

Experience total hip replacement has shown that a certain percentage of patients will require further surgery. Revision surgery is necessary due to infection and because implants break, loosen and wear. The chance of a hip replacement lasting twenty years is about 80%.

Is revision hip surgery different?

Yes and no. Revision surgery is different in that the original components are removed and new components are implanted. The technical aspects of the surgery are more complex than the original total hip replacement. However, the preparation for surgery and hospital experience tend to be very similar to the primary total hip replacement.

What happens if my hip gets infected?

Infection after surgery is one of the most serious complications. Like other complications, it is better avoided than treated. At the clinique Sainte Isabelle all joint replacement surgery is done in special laminar flow operating rooms designed to keep out dust, germs and unclean air. The surgeons also wear “space suits”. These full body suits, worn over normal scrubs, let the surgeons move and breathe without spreading germs, since an exhaust tube carries dirty air out of the room.

Additionally, all patients are given antibiotics before and after the procedure. Thanks to these measures, the infection rate at The Clinique sainte Isabelle is less than half of 1%.

If infection does occur, the patient is first given antibiotics. If the infection does not clear up, the implant will have to be removed and the patient is scheduled for revision surgery. The patient is treated with intravenous (I.V.) antibiotics. Months later, after the infection has cleared up, a new prosthesis is implanted.

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