Hip Replacement Surgery: Pro and Cons

There are approximately 400,000 hip replacement surgeries in the United States.  A hip replacement may be done for various reasons. There are certain conditions that can damage the hip joint and result in needing to have hip replacement surgery.  The hip is a major weight bearing join and the whole body structure relies on the pelvic area. The two most common conditions that lead to this necessary surgery are rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.  Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder which produces a type of inflammation that can erode bone and cartilage and deform joints. This disorder is characterized by an irregular assault of the immune system on the lining of the joint, the synovium.  As a result, the joint becomes inflamed and fluid builds up resulting in pain.

Osteoarthritis on the other hand is commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis.  And it is this type of arthritis that we have more control over.  Osteoarthritis damages the cartilage that covers the ends of bones and helps joints move smoothly. Cartilage acts as a cushion between the bones, protecting our joints from the stresses of daily activities. This degenerative joint disease is characterized by changes in the cartilage that normally sits between bones at the joint. As the cartilage wears away the space between the bone narrows, until the underlying bone is exposed. Pain eventually results from wear on the naked bone, as well as increased stress and fatigue of the muscles that support the joint.

There is no single cause of osteoarthritis, but rather, the condition is due to the accumulation of various stresses. For instances, those who are obese are at an increased risk. Not only does the extra weight translate into an increased load on your joints, but recent research suggests that body fat produces chemicals which appear to further harm the joint. Moreover, many individuals with chronic joint pain can cite an inciting injury or a history of overuse. Some jobs, like athletics, manual labor, machine operators and typists, carry an inherited increased risk of developing joint problems. 

Regardless of the why that leads you to hip replacement surgery, going under the knife even to reduce great pain and increase quality of life, can be a difficult decision to make. 

The risks associated with hip replacement surgery may include:

·         Fracture: During surgery, healthy portions of your hip joint may fracture.

·         Blood clots: Clots can form in your leg veins after surgery.

·         Infection: Infections can occur at the site of your incision and in the deeper tissue near your new hip.

·         Change in leg lengthSometimes this is caused by weakness in the muscles surrounding the hip. In this case, progressively strengthening and stretching those muscles may help.

·         Dislocation: Certain positions can cause the ball of your new joint to become dislocated.

·         Loosening: Although rare with newer implants, your new joint may not become solidly fixed to your bone or may loosen over time, causing pain in your hip.

Thankfully, there are many ways we can prevent damage and ease the pain of existing injury. Good hip health starts with exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Although pain medication can be helpful, non-pharmacologic interventions should be recommended as the first line treatment. Chronic use of over the counter pain medications can have consequences for your liver, kidneys and stomach, while not getting to the route of the problem. Weight-loss, on the other hand, can greatly reduce the development of hip damaging arthritis, as well as lessen pain. This is effect is further amplified when combined with exercise. Particularly, exercises like yoga, which incorporates physical stretching with deep breathing helps focus on the tendons and ligaments, are key to preserving joint health.