Hip Replacement Risks
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Hip replacement surgery is usually an extremely successful operation. In the vast majority of cases, patients do not experience any complications. However, in a small number, unwanted complications can occur.
Understanding the risks, benefits and options for hip replacement will help you be an active part of the care team in deciding when is the right time for a hip replacement.
Weighing the Risks of a Hip Replacement
In weighing whether now is the time, it is important to know the complications that can occur and the non-surgical treatments for hip arthritis. At University of Maryland Orthopaedics, our orthopedic hip specialists are more than happy to discuss them with you.
Before and during hip surgery, we take steps to limit the risk of infection. The University of Maryland is a leader in the prevention and treatment of joint replacement infection. Although infections are very uncommon, they do occur. When infection occurs, usually the replacement parts must be removed and replaced with a temporary antibiotic hip for three months. The hip replacement is then redone.
Hip replacements are not as stable as your natural hips. Dislocation (when the ball pops out of the socket) can happen. At the University of Maryland, our extremely low rate of dislocation after hip replacement is due to our specific prevention techniques. Although the hip replacement implants are slightly more prone to dislocation than the natural hip joint, most patients do not have any long-term limitations to hip movement.
Differences in Leg Length
Most patients with hip arthritis have one leg that is shorter than the other. The shorter leg is usually on the side with the hip arthritis.
During hip replacement surgery, we use multiple techniques to equalize the leg lengths as closely as possible. It is not possible to get them exactly laser-line equal, but in the vast majority of cases, it is possible to get them similar enough that the patient does not notice any difference.
One exception is when the hip with the arthritis is longer before surgery. Making a hip shorter is difficult because it would become unstable. If the hip that has the arthritis feels longer before surgery, it will be that way after surgery.
At the University of Maryland, we use specialized methods for measuring leg length and do everything we can to get your legs as close to being equal as possible. However, the main goals of hip replacement are stable hip implants and pain relief. Leg-length equality is a priority only after these first two goals are established.
Fractures Around Hip Implants
Hip replacement parts in the United States are most often press-fit into the bone at the time of surgery. This means they are not cemented to the bone, but designed in a way that the bone will grow and attach to the surface.
Either during surgery or after surgery, it is possible for cracks to develop in the bones where the implants are pressed into place. If this occurs at the time of surgery, it can be addressed then. However, sometimes cracks can develop after surgery. To limit this problem, we use implants and techniques that are designed to avoid fractures.
In addition, we ask that patients use some form of assistive device, either a walker or a crutch or a cane, for six weeks after hip replacement surgery to prevent twisting or falling that could produce a fracture.
Hip replacement can temporarily worsen any existing medical condition. The most frequent medical complication after hip replacement is blood clots. We take steps to prevent blood clots during and after hospitalization. If they do occur, they require treatment.
In addition, patients who have heart or lung disease may possibly note worsening of those conditions, including heart attacks, problems with breathing or stroke after joint replacement. Although these complications are very rare, they do occur. It is important to work with your primary care physician to optimize your health before undergoing hip replacement surgery.