Are you Familiar With the Signs You Might Need a Hip Replacement?

Feb 8, 2024 | Articles, Blog

Are you Familiar With the Signs You Might Need a Hip Replacement?

Every month, between 200 and 300 patients undergo hip replacement surgery in South Africa. Is there a chance you could be next? Here’s what you need to know. Orthopaedic surgeons worldwide have successfully replaced damaged and diseased joints with prosthetic parts since the early ‘60s, when an English Professor, Sir John Charnley, pioneered the use of the new durable, biocompatible materials responsible for a long-awaited but elusive breakthrough in this field.

In professional circles, the procedure is known as arthroplasty and is most often used to treat complications affecting the hips or knees and for repairs to the shoulder joint. While performed less frequently, wrist and ankle replacements are also undertaken by some orthopaedic surgeons.

A joint enables movement between two or more bones. For example, the hip is a ball and socket joint in which the head of the femur bone represents the ball and a depression in the pelvic bone known as the acetabulum acts as the socket. Anything that affects the smooth articulation between these could require hip arthroplasty.

Common Symptoms Seen in Hip Replacement Patients

Pain and swelling in a joint like the hip or knee are pretty common and could be no more than a sign you may have been overdoing things. However, when these symptoms persist, they might be cause for concern. A physician will generally prescribe painkillers and rest but could also recommend mild exercise. However, surgery could be the only remaining viable option if these have no effect.

Physical injuries where the components of a joint are severely damaged, avascular necrosis and tumours can all justify a hip replacement. However, the most common explanation for chronic pain, swollen joints, and stiffness is a condition known as osteoarthritis. The pain, which can initially be managed with analgaesics, and later with steroid injections, results from the erosion of the protective collagen layer coating the articulating surface of the femoral head, acetabulum or both. Damage to the layers increases friction between the bone surfaces, causing chipping and the bone fragments responsible for the pain.

Whether this condition is treated or not, the pain and swelling will eventually intensify to the point where they disturb the patient’s sleep and severely restrict their mobility. Inevitably, these are the indications that the next step should be a total hip replacement (THR).

Osteoarthritis was once seen mainly in patients aged 65 or over. However, more recently, orthopaedic specialists are frequently observing its symptoms in people in their mid-40s or younger. This increased incidence appears to correlate with another modern lifestyle problem – the global surge in obesity. It now seems highly likely that overweight individuals have an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis.

What Does Hip Replacement Involve?

During the minimally invasive procedure, the diseased upper portion of the femur is removed, and a metal spindle bearing the substitute ball component is inserted into the femoral medulla and secured with special bone cement. A metal or ceramic cup forms the acetabular prosthesis, and a plastic cushion between them provides frictionless articulation.

Dr Jan De Vos of the Wilgers Life Hospital in Pretoria is a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon specialising in joint replacement surgery. Please don’t hesitate to contact him for further information about hip, knee or shoulder arthroplasty.