A hip replacement is a surgical procedure that replaces the painful hip joint with an artificial hip joint.
In a hip replacement, the head of the femur (the bone that extends from the hip to the knee) is removed along with the surface layer of the socket in which it rests (called the acetabulum).
For nearly a century, doctors have been putting various materials into diseased and painful hip joints to relieve pain. Up until the 1960s, outcomes had been unreliable. At that time, the metal ball and plastic socket for the replacement of the hip joint was introduced. Today, the artificial components used in a hip replacement are stronger and more designs are available.
There are many different shapes, sizes, and designs of artificial components of the hip joint. For the most part these are composed of chrome, cobalt, titanium, or ceramic materials. Some surgeons are also using custom-made components to improve the fit in the femur.
The hip joint is located where the upper end of the femur meets the acetabulum. The femur, or thigh bone, looks like a long stem with a ball on the end. The acetabulum is a socket or cup-like structure in the pelvis, or hip bone. This "ball and socket" arrangement allows a wide range of motion, including sitting, standing, walking, and other daily activities.
During hip replacement, the surgeon removes the diseased bone tissue and cartilage from the hip joint. The healthy parts of the hip are left intact. Then the surgeon replaces the head of the femur (the ball) and the acetabulum (the socket) with new, artificial parts. The new hip is made of materials that allow a natural, gliding motion of the joint. Hip replacement surgery usually lasts 2 to 3 hours.
Sometimes the surgeon will use a special glue, or cement, to bond the new parts of the hip joint to the existing, healthy bone. This is referred to as a "cemented" procedure. In an uncemented procedure, the artificial parts are made of porous material that allows the patient's own bone to grow into the pores and hold the new parts in place. Doctors sometimes use a "hybrid" replacement, which consists of a cemented femur part and an uncommented acetabular part.
On the day after surgery or sometimes on the day of surgery, therapists will teach the patient exercises that will improve recovery. A respiratory therapist may ask the patient to breathe deeply, cough, or blow into a simple device that measures lung capacity. These exercises reduce the collection of fluid in the lungs after surgery.
A physical therapist may teach the patient exercises, such as contracting and relaxing certain muscles that can strengthen the hip. Because the new, artificial hip has a more limited range of movement than an undiseased hip, the physical therapist also will teach the patient proper techniques for simple activities of daily living, such as bending and sitting, to prevent injury to the new hip. As early as 1 to 2 days after surgery, a patient may be able to sit on the edge of the bed, stand, and even walk with assistance. Usually, people do not spend more than 10 days in the hospital after hip replacement surgery. Full recovery from the surgery takes about 3 to 6 months, depending on the type of surgery, the overall health of the patient, and the success of rehabilitation.