Signs You May Need a Hip Replacement

Hip replacement surgery is considered one of the most successful operations in all of medicine, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. In the last 50 years, significant improvements have been made to both technique and technology, which have greatly increased the overall effectiveness of total hip replacement. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 300,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States.

However, not everyone is a candidate for a hip replacement. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and talk to your doctor before deciding to undergo this elective surgery.

Pain, stiffness

The most common source of chronic hip pain and disability is arthritis. This occurs over time, usually in people age 50 and older, when cartilage breaks down in the hips and the bones begin to rub against each other, causing inflammation and a great deal of discomfort. Other reasons for hip pain may be attributed to an injury or early childhood disease.

Many people who opt for a hip replacement have suffered for a long period of time and were unsuccessful with alternative treatments to managing pain with medication, steroid injections or physical therapy.

The location of the pain helps orthopedic surgeons make an accurate diagnosis, which is also determined based on a patient’s medical history, a physical evaluation, and X-rays or other advanced imaging tests.

“Patients with an arthritic hip mostly experience pain in the groin area,” said Bertrand Kaper, M.D., a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon at HonorHealth. “Although the pain could be attributed to another medical issue such as tendonitis or a pinched nerve, it is often a sign that the hip is damaged.”

Back, knee and leg pain are also common symptoms.

“The location of this pain can sometimes be harder to diagnose and manage appropriately,” Kaper said. “It is often very frustrating for patients who may have been treating the wrong source of pain,” Kaper said.

Stiffness in the hip can also be a sign of a functional disability, which sometimes results in decreased range of motion, or the inability to bear weight.

Limited ability to participate in daily activities

While the severity of pain and an individual’s overall level of tolerance varies greatly, experts say it might be time to consider a hip replacement when pain is interfering with the basic ability to function or move freely.

“If you’re experiencing pain at rest, or if it’s waking you up at night and doesn’t improve or go away with over-the-counter medication, it may be time to speak to a specialist,” Kaper explained. “Just because you’re having a conversation about hip replacement doesn’t mean you’ll need surgery.”

Affected quality of life

People who require assistance from a cane, walker or wheelchair, or those who can no longer independently care for themselves, may also be good candidates for a hip replacement.

“People want to remain active,” Kaper explained. “Most aren’t quite ready to give up that freedom because they ultimately want to get back to doing the things they love most like playing golf or keeping up with their grandchildren.”

Today, those who undergo hip replacement surgery experience a dramatic reduction of hip pain and a significant improvement in their ability to perform the common activities of daily living, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

“There are no restrictions on low-impact activities following hip replacement surgery,” Kaper said. “Today’s prosthetic joints are very durable and have a long lifespan.”

Knowing you’re ready

When it’s time to determine if hip replacement surgery is the right option, turn towards your doctor for guidance.

“It’s our job as medical professionals to provide as much education as we can so a well-informed decision can be made,” Kaper said.

The best orthopedic surgeons, like Kaper, who perform the minimally invasive direct anterior approach to hip replacement, set expectations, review potential risks and complications, explain details of the procedure and provide comprehensive instructions for recovery.

“The distinct advantages of hip replacement surgery include less damage to major muscles, reduction in pain, improved outcomes and a better quality of life,” Kaper said.

Learn more about hip replacement surgery at HonorHealth

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