The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, which allows a wide range of movement. Arthritis damages the cartilage-covered surfaces of the joint so the ball moves less smoothly and less freely within the socket. In a hip replacement or resurfacing operation, the surgeon replaces the damaged surfaces with artificial parts, which may be made of metal, plastic or ceramic materials.
Hip replacement is most commonly recommended for severe osteoarthritis, but it’s sometimes used for inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis or for problems with development of the hip during childhood. Hip surgery may also be needed for fractures of the hip, including those resulting from osteoporosis.
You won’t necessarily need a hip replacement if you have arthritis of the hip, but it may be worth considering if your hip is severely damaged and the pain, disability or stiffness are having serious effects on your daily activities. Your doctors will always try other measures before suggesting a hip replacement – for example, painkillers, physiotherapy and/or walking aids, or occasionally a steroid injection into your hip joint.
There are no age limits for having hip replacement surgery, although the younger you are when you have surgery, the greater the chances that your new joint will eventually wear out. However, it’s usually possible to have another hip replacement later on if you need to.
Advantages of a hip replacement?
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Freedom from pain is the main possible advantage of hip replacement surgery, along with improved mobility. Both of these should improve your quality of life. You’ll have some pain from the surgery to begin with but you should soon start to notice improvements soon after the operation.