Hip replacement (along with knee replacement) is one of the most common surgeries and millions of people worldwide get it done every year. The surgery is performed when non-operative treatments like medication and physiotherapy cannot control the painful symptoms.
At the same time, Total Hip Replacement (THR) is major surgery and you need to know what the risks of a surgery like this are and make an informed choice.
Hip Replacement - What happens in the surgery?
The damaged joint surface is removed and replaced with an artificial implant, made of steel, titanium or ceramic. You stay for a few days in the hospital and after discharge, undergo physiotherapy. In a few weeks, your joint is almost as good as new.
It is a fairly safe procedure but not entirely risk-free. Some of these risks (like blood loss or infection) are applicable to any surgery and some unique to this procedure.
- Infection at the Point of Incision: Your doctors take extreme care to make sure the operated and stitched area stays infection-free but in some cases, it does get infected. A course of antibiotics can take care of this but in very rare cases, when the implant area is affected, another surgery might be required.
- Blood clots after the surgery: Your doctors will prescribe blood thinners after the operation to make sure there is no clotting. This is so because, after any type of operation, clotting can happen. This is caused by the inactivity during and after the surgery. For THRs, the clot can develop in the veins close around leg and pelvis region.
- Fracture of healthy areas: During surgery, some healthy parts of your hip joint might fracture. Larger fractures might require additional support of a metal plate, wires or pins but smaller ones heal on their own, as long as you take the right medicines and a healthy diet. The post-surgery diet needs to be very healthy, with a focus on protein, calcium and Vitamin C for a few months.
- Dislocation of ball in the new joint: Certain positions can cause the ball of your new joint to dislodge. Your doctor can help manage this by putting a brace, realigning it non-surgically while you are sedated and in extreme cases, a follow-up surgery is required. To avoid this complication, follow the physiotherapy and exercise guidelines and strictly avoid the positions your doctor tells you to avoid.
- Change in leg length: Mostly due to contracting or stretching of tissues around the hip, your legs might become uneven by a few millimetres. Your surgeon takes steps to avoid the problem. In case the problem persists, you will be advised to wear a raised insole.
- Loosening of implant: A good implant that has been taken care of, can last up to 20 years or more. However, over time, a replacement join can loosen, if it has not fully fixed to your bone or there is wear and tear. With newer implant materials, this is not commonly found but if it happens and starts causing serious discomfort, surgery might have to be done.
Hip replacement Surgery is safe and provides immense relief to the patients. To make the most of it, ensure that you follow all the guidelines by your doctors carefully and avoid all the associated risks.