Why Hip Replacement Surgery is Necessary and What it Entails
Millions of patients worldwide undergo hip replacement surgery annually, and the demand keeps increasing. So who needs it, and what does the procedure entail? Despite successfully treating fractures and skeletal deformities for millennia, the first attempt to surgically repair a damaged joint was only in 1821 when a London surgeon performed an excision arthroplasty on a 9-year-old with a tuberculous hip joint.
Later, others began investigating the treatment of damaged joint surfaces or arthroplasty. In 1891, a German named Glück demonstrated that replacing the damaged bones with prostheses was feasible. His ivory ball and socket assembly quickly collapsed, but he’d proved his point, prompting further attempts using more robust materials. Today, joint replacements are among the most successful orthopaedic interventions.
The Most Common Reasons to Perform Hip Replacement Surgery
The average age of hip arthroplasty patients is around sixty-seven, and most are in their seventies or eighties. This surgery may be necessary for several reasons, but the most frequent is to alleviate pain, swelling and impaired mobility caused by osteoarthritis. The latter is typified by progressive erosion of the protective cartilage layer on the femoral head, lining the acetabular socket, or both. The exposed surfaces become chipped and cracked, causing chronic inflammation and pain. The following are some of the other reasons patients need this operation:
- Hip Injuries or Fractures: When articular cartilage is damaged, it can lead to traumatic arthritis and symptoms similar to osteoarthritis.
- Avascular Necrosis: This condition can be a complication of severe trauma, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, gout or long-term steroid use leading to loss of the blood supply to the femoral head and bone decay.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis: RA is an autoimmune condition that causes the synovial membrane to become inflamed and produce excess fluid, damaging the articular cartilage.
Before and After Hip Replacement Surgery
One or both of your joint surfaces may require replacing, depending on the extent of the damage. However, most surgeons favour total over partial replacement as the latter can cause additional wear on the untreated surface and the need for further intervention. Several approaches are used to perform the surgery, and your surgeon will choose the most suitable for you.
There are a few things you should do before your operation. It can help to lose weight as this will reduce strain on the prosthetic joint. Likewise, some mild exercise will help strengthen the muscles supporting your hip. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of complications. Preparing the home to remove hazards and setting up a bed on the ground floor will facilitate your recovery.
After preliminary X-rays and scans, it’s time for surgery, which may be conducted under general or spinal anaesthesia. A three to five-day stay in the hospital is usual, and you will be encouraged to stand and walk the following day. A physiotherapist will provide advice about exercises to help speed your recovery. If you’re employed, you could be fit for work within six weeks, provided you follow your surgeon’s instructions.
Where’s the Best Place for Hip Replacement Surgery?
The orthopaedic unit headed by Doctor Jan De Vos operates at the Wilgers Life Hospital in Pretoria. The centre has earned the status of a national and international referral destination for shoulder, knee and hip replacement surgery. We invite you to complete and submit our online Oxford Hip Score form to arrange a consultation.