What Are the Signs You Might Need a Hip Replacement?
Until the late 1930s, the best a doctor could do for a patient with a damaged or diseased joint was to dispense painkillers. Initially, oral and topical analgaesics were adequate, but eventually, even injections into the affected joint ceased to be effective. Patients were then forced to resign themselves to a life of immobility in a wheelchair. The breakthrough came in 1938 when a British surgeon names Philip Wiles performed the first successful hip replacement. There had been numerous previous attempts, and the surgical technique was well-established. Wiles’ use of a stainless steel prosthesis overcame the short-lived benefits of previous attempts.
As materials science produced newer, more robust, and biocompatible alternatives, the procedure has evolved to become the most successful intervention in orthopaedic history. So how will you know if you might be a potential candidate for this life-changing procedure? We all suffer occasional twinges in our joints, particularly after long periods of strenuous activity. However, only when these are persistent will you likely require a hip replacement. The pain often occurs in the groin region. It might be accompanied occasionally by a clicking sensation, which may even be audible.
However, even these symptoms do not necessarily indicate a need for surgery. Your GP will generally begin by prescribing painkillers and mild exercise, perhaps under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
When it Might be Time for a Hip Replacement
Individuals respond differently, and the medication could provide adequate relief for several years. At some future stage, however, it may be necessary to administer steroids to the affected joint to provide extended relief. When that no longer works, it could be time for a hip replacement.
We all have different pain thresholds; some can tolerate more than others. Also, many people are reluctant to undergo surgery because they believe it will limit their activities. While this is true to some degree, failure to seek a surgical solution could lead to a total loss of mobility and independence. Although it will not restore your ability to run marathons or play rugby, it will make daily tasks like tying your shoes and climbing stairs much easier. If you are currently having difficulties with such chores or the pain stops you from sleeping, enquire about a hip replacement.
Occasionally, patients may experience worrying side effects following long-term use of pain medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include ulcers, a weakened immune system, increased risk of stroke, thrombosis, and heart attack. In some instances, patients may even develop an addiction. If your medication causes problems, you need to consult your doctor immediately. Suppose there is no alternative medication that is both effective and free of such side effects. In that case, the only practical solution may be to book yourself a hip replacement as soon as possible.
While some doctors may suggest less radical surgical procedures, their benefits tend to be temporary. By contrast, total arthroplasty of the femoroacetabular joint is widely regarded as the gold standard. Modern prostheses have an average lifespan of 20 years or more, barring mishaps.
If pain and inflammation leave you sleep-deprived and interfere with your day-to-day living, arthroplasty can ensure you retain your mobility and minimise discomfort. Dr Jan de Vos is a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hip replacement. We invite you to learn more about our many satisfied patients at Pretoria’s Life Wilgers Hospital.
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