Hip Replacements: What to Expect

May 2, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Laurent Delavaux, M.D. contributes to topics such as Orthopedics, Rehabilitation , Physical Medicine.

Thomas K. John, M.D. contributes to topics such as Orthopedics.

If your hip pain is so severe it’s interfering with your daily activities, you may be considering a hip replacement. But keep in mind that total hip replacement is major surgery. When a patient has significant pain—even with medication—or has difficulty sleeping, walking or going up and down stairs, it’s time to consider hip replacement.

Because of arthritic changes, the ball joint at the top of the femur (thigh bone) and the socket in the pelvis lose some or all of their protective cartilage. When the ball joint rubs directly against its socket, that bone-on-bone contact causes pain and impaired mobility.

What to Expect From Hip Replacement Surgery

During surgery, a patient is given either general anesthesia or a spinal block, and the surgeon makes an incision along either the front or side of the hip. Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Thomas K. John, M.D. describes the main parts of the procedure.

“The surgeon removes the ball joint and prepares the socket to receive the artificial joint,” he says. “These days, most implants are composed of a combination of ceramic, polyethylene or metal, and the surgeon selects the one that will give the patient the best result based on their weight, age, gender and activity level.”

Once the prosthetic joint is in place, the surgeon compares the leg length of the repaired side to the unaffected one. When everything checks out, the incision is closed and the patient goes to the recovery area.

Within hours after surgery, when the patient is awake and alert, he or she will be encouraged to get up and start walking with crutches or a walker. This is important to decrease the chance of blood clots forming and to get used to walking with the new hip. Nurses or physical therapists will teach the patient special exercises to do during the recuperation period.

What Is Recovery Like?

Once the patient is home and starting outpatient physical therapy, he or she might need a cane for balance at first. Laurent Delavaux, M.D., is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and works for Hackensack Meridian Health at the JFK-Johnson Rehab Institute in Edison. He oversees pain management and musculoskeletal patient care, including recovery plans for hip replacement. “With guidance from your physical therapist, you will learn the necessary exercises needed to strengthen the muscles surrounding your new hip, and you will be transitioned through gradually longer and more challenging walking and balance exercises,” he says. “Learning these home exercises and performing them on a daily basis will help speed your recovery and maintain the strength and flexibility needed to prevent any long-term issues.”

Most people who have had hip replacement surgery are able to return to normal light activity, including driving, within three to six weeks, and are pretty much back to normal in 10 to 12 weeks.

When the area around the new hip is fully healed, there might be some residual soreness from time to time, but nothing like the pain the patient experienced before the surgery.

Thomas K. John, M.D. practices in Hackensack. To make an appointment, call 855-424-9355. Laurent Delavaux, M.D. practices in Edison. To make an appointment, call 888-453-5362. To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.