By Geoffrey Winterburn
A hip replacement is major surgery where part or all of a diseased/damaged hip is removed and replaced. Finding the right hip replacement specialist for you can seem rather daunting but there is plenty of advice out there to calm any fears and get you in the right hands.
Do you Need a Hip Replacement?
Before you begin to start your search for a hip replacement specialist, it is essential that you are sure that this is the best treatment for you. An artificial hip is not as reliable as a real one, and some problems can occur. 1 in 10 people report on-going hip pains after an operation and certain movements must be avoided to prevent dislocation. That being said, for many, a hip replacement will considerably improve the standard of living.
Many practitioners will advise you to persist with minor symptoms but a replacement may be considered if:
- The symptoms do not ease and/or are getting worse
- All other forms of treatment have failed
- You can’t perform typical daily tasks
- You can’t sleep at night due to hip pain
- Activities you take part in are severely disrupted
Causes of these symptoms will vary from case to case but Osteoarthritis is the most common cause. Osteoarthritis is degenerative disease in joints caused by the breaking down and eventual loss of cartilage (acts as a buffer so bones don’t rub together). In the UK alone, some 8.5 million people (over 10% of the population) are affected by the condition. Other common causes are injuries, Rheumatoid Arthritis, diseases or tumors.
Speak to your Doctor
If you feel your symptoms are severe enough to consider an operation, you need some expert advice. Even if you have consistent symptoms, many other factors must be considered such as your age, weight, bone density and nutrition before you are guaranteed and operation. Hip replacements usually last anything between 15 years to a lifetime so if you are middle-aged, the likelihood is an operation will be delayed to prevent multiply operations in a lifetime. 90% of operations will never need any further treatment, however much of the remaining 10% is made up of younger patients, and that increases the chances of further treatment later.
Although hip replacement is a common operation nowadays (in the US over 800,000 hip and knee replacements take place each year), it is still a severe operation and should be avoided if at all possible. Even if a hip is damaged, patients must be otherwise physically well to be able to endure a major operation and tolerate the long recovery process.
Talk to a Specialist
One of the most important factors when choosing a specialist is that you feel comfortable with them and trust them to perform the surgery, after all it’s your life. Feeling at ease can make the whole process go smoothly and give you a positive attitude towards the procedure. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions that you may have. It is better that you approach the procedure with a clear mind with a full understanding of what lies ahead.
A reputable hip replacement specialist will be able to offer you expert advice on not only the procedure itself but will be able to also answer questions regarding the recovery process and relevant aftercare you will need once the operation is complete.
Here are some questions to consider asking:
- How long will I be in hospital?
- How long is the recovery process?
- Are there alternatives to replacement in my case?
- How long before I will be walking again?
- Can I choose between general anesthetic and an epidural?
- What post-operation assistance will I be offered?
A hip replacement operation typically takes 60-90 minutes to perform. The operation can be performed with a number of different anesthetics; the main options being:
- General Anesthetic – This is administered via gas, injection or drugs and affects the nervous system so the patient is under controlled unconsciousness and feels nothing. Post-op, the anesthetic wears off and the patient will need to take pain killers to regulate pain levels.
- Epidural – An epidural catheter is passed through a needle into the lower back and a measured dose of local anesthetic and pain killers remove feeling from the lower body. The patient remains awake throughout this operation however the epidural can cause the patient to feel uncomfortable.
Once pain relief has been regulated, the surgeon makes an incision at the hip and the damaged bone will be removed and replaced with an artificial joint. The replacement hips are typically made up of metal or ceramic.
Usually patients will remain in hospital for 3-5 days before being allowed home. Walking aids such as crutches or a frame “walker” will need to be used for the first 4-6 weeks so as little pressure is placed on the new joint while it recovers. A physician will prescribe an exercise program to follow so muscles around the joint can be rebuilt. In normal circumstances patients will be back to normal in 8 and 12 weeks. To ensure the hip remains in good condition the following aftercare advice is given:
- Do not cross your legs
- When turning do not rotate on the foot, take small steps
- Don’t bend over 90° at the hip joint
- Do not force the hip into unnatural positions
If you would like some further information or advice in the US visit http://www.aboutstryker.com/hip, or in the UK you can find specialists who can perform hip replacement operations at www.privatehealth.co.uk. You can get a very basic estimate of U.S. costs at Healthcare Blue Book, and you can find other people who have had the surgery at PatientsLikeMe.com.
About the Author
Geoffrey Winterburn is a writer for Intuition Communication Limited in the United Kingdom – specialists in private healthcare. Hobbies include reading, photography and creative writing.