When Is It Time to Have a Total Hip Replacement?
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Hip replacement is one of the most successful operations of modern medicine and is very effective at relieving pain. For the vast majority of patients, hip replacement is an elective procedure. There is no rush to getting a hip replacement, and it should be done when the patient is physically and emotionally ready for the operation.
This page explores nonoperative treatment of hip arthritis, the risks associated with hip replacement surgery and signs that it may be time to consider hip replacement.
Alternatives to Hip Replacement
For patients who have hip arthritis and are not yet ready to undergo surgery, management of hip arthritis consists of physical therapy, corticosteroid injections into the hip and the use of pain-relief medications.
Physical therapy can help strengthen the weakened hip muscles surrounding an arthritic hip and can improve a patient’s ability to deal with the pain and dysfunction of hip arthritis. Therapy can also sometimes increase the motion surrounding the hip. Many patients who have hip pain also have low back pain. Physical therapy is very good at improving low back pain.
Corticosteroid injection involves a radiologist injecting an anti-inflammatory steroid medication directly into the hip joint to help relieve some of the pain of hip arthritis. The injections can be repeated every 3 months to make a patient more comfortable.
Pain-relief medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen, are also effective at relieving pain. For acetaminophen to be effective, patients should take it three times a day.
Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory medication, can be taken for pain relief as long as patients do not experience stomach problems, such as ulcers or bleeding.
Do These Nonoperative Treatments Work?
These nonoperative treatments do not treat the underlying problem but rather treat the inflammation and side effects of the arthritis. Their purpose is to limit the symptoms, not cure the underlying arthritis. Unfortunately, conservative treatments for hip arthritis are not nearly as effective as for knee arthritis.
Patients who have groin pain and evidence of arthritis on an x-ray can unfortunately expect their condition to worsen over time.