How a Hip Replacement Specialist Can Alleviate Pain and Disability

Jan 8, 2019 | Articles

How a Hip Replacement Specialist Can Alleviate Pain and Disability

While the accumulation of knowledge and wisdom may be among the advantages of growing older, ageing also has its downside. Upon entering one’s sixth decade, the aches and pains shrugged off in the past will often tend to become more noticeable and may even require one to slow down and to rest more frequently. One of the more common discomforts experienced by sexagenarians is stiff and painful joints due to osteoarthritis – the frequent result of many years of wear and tear. Later in life, the combination of weakening and poor balance often leads to falls that result in pelvic fractures. For those affected by these and other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and bone dysplasia, hip replacement specialists are now able to offer some welcome relief and the possibility of a more active life.

In health, the bones within a mobile joint are designed to glide smoothly against one another, assisted by a combination of the protective layer of cartilage coating each of the articulating surfaces and the lubricating action of the synovial fluid surrounding them. However, physical injury or disease can result in the erosion of cartilage, allowing the hard bone surfaces to grind together, resulting in chipping and pain which becomes more intense as the damage increases. Most commonly affecting the knee or hip, replacement of the damaged joint with a prosthesis, by an orthopaedic specialist, may eventually be the only option.

Known as hip arthroscopy, it is a major procedure and not one to be undertaken unless it is considered to be absolutely necessary. Patients who present with painful swollen joints can normally be managed, initially, with prescription painkillers. When these are no longer sufficiently effective, the next step will normally be to manage the pain with periodic steroid injections. Only when the latter option fails to provide sufficient relief will a patient be referred to a hip replacement specialist for surgery.

On average, a prosthetic joint should remain functional for about 15 to 20 years without further attention, so delaying the initial surgery for as long as possible will tend to ensure that the patient experiences the maximum benefit. The longevity of these prostheses has improved steadily over the course of almost 80 years since the first successful use of a metal prosthesis in 1940. This can be attributed both to the development of new materials and the perfection of the surgical techniques now employed by hip replacement specialists in the 21st century.

The modern implant is no longer an all-metal structure. Instead, it is made from a combination of materials. In the case of a prosthetic hip joint, for example, this consists of three parts – an acetabular cup and femoral component, each made of metal or ceramic, separated by an articular interface of a durable plastic, such as polyethylene. In order to ensure that the implanted acetabular cup and femoral component remain securely in place, hip replacement specialists are able to employ one of two options. The choice is between rapid-drying bone cement and the cementless, or so-called press-fit technique. In the latter instance, the implanted metal components have a sponge-like texture that allows the bone to grow into them, thus forming a firm fusion of the two. While patients with a cemented prosthesis are encouraged to resume normal activities as soon as possible following surgery, bone growth takes a while and patients need to take extra care for two to three months.

In addition to the benefits of new and improved materials for the manufacture of prosthetics, one of the major advances available to the hip replacement specialists of today is arthroscopic surgery. The use of an arthroscope enables them to perform this procedure in a manner that is far less invasive than the radical techniques that call for the total exposure of the joint. Instead, several small incisions provide surgeons with an internal view of the joint via the scope, whilst providing access for the necessary surgical instruments. The result is a procedure that is not only less traumatic, but also one which minimises the risk of post-operative infections, whilst helping to reduce the time required for recovery.

In an era when men and women are living for much longer than previous generations, one of the downsides of longevity has become more apparent. With the advancing years comes the legacy of wear and tear on our joints. Thanks to the efforts of hip and other joint replacement specialists, many now regain their independence.