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Frequently Asked Questions about Hip Surgery

Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions along with their answers. You can also find this information and more, in the Sacred Heart Medical Center Orthopedic Patient Handbook. If you have any other questions that you need answered, please ask your surgeon or the care team.

What is arthritis and why does my hip hurt?

In the hip joint there is a layer of smooth cartilage on the ball of the upper end of the thigh bone (femur) and another layer within your hip socket. This cartilage serves as a cushion and allows for smooth motion of the hip. Arthritis is a wearing away of this cartilage. Eventually it wears down to bone. Rubbing of bone against bone causes discomfort, swelling and stiffness.

What are my hip replacement options?

A total hip replacement is an operation that removes the arthritic ball of the upper thigh bone (femur) as well as damaged cartilage from the hip socket. Your surgeon will discuss what joint implant options are available and how he will choose the best one for you.

How successful are total hip replacements?

90-95 percent of patients achieve good to excellent results with relief of discomfort and significantly increased activity and mobility.

When should I have this type of surgery?

Your orthopedic surgeon will decide if you are a candidate for the surgery. This will be based on your history, exam, and x-rays. Your orthopedic surgeon will ask you to decide if your discomfort, stiffness and disability justify undergoing surgery. There is no harm in waiting if conservative, non-operative methods are controlling your discomfort.

Am I too old for this surgery?

Age is not a problem if you are in reasonable health and have the desire to continue living a productive, active life. You may be asked to see your personal physician for his/her opinion about your general health and readiness for surgery.

How long will my new hip last, and can a second replacement be done?

We expect most hips to last more than 10-20 years. However, there is no guarantee, and 10-20 percent may not last that long. A second replacement may be necessary.

Why do hip replacements fail?

The most common reason for failure is loosening of the artificial ball where it is secured in the femur, or loosening of the socket.

What are the major risks?

Most surgeries go well, without any complications. Infection and blood clots are two serious complications that concern us the most. To avoid these complications, we use antibiotics and blood thinners. We also take special precautions in the operating room to reduce risk of infections. The chances of this happening in your lifetime are one percent or less. Dislocation of the hip after surgery is a risk. Your surgeon and care team will discuss ways to reduce that risk.

Will the surgery be painful?

You will have discomfort following the surgery, but we will keep you comfortable with appropriate medication. The care team will monitor your level of discomfort frequently and treat you as ordered by your surgeon. We will discuss what pain interventions have worked for you in the past, and work with your surgeon to develop an individualized pain management plan.

How long does the surgery take?

We reserve approximately three hours for surgery and recovery time. Some of this time is taken by the operating room staff to prepare for the surgery. Individual recovery times may vary.

Do I need to be asleep for this surgery?

You may have a general anesthetic, which will put you to sleep. Some patients prefer to have a spinal or epidural anesthetic, which numbs your legs only and does not require you to be asleep. The choice is between you, your surgeon and the anesthesiologist.

How do I make arrangements for surgery?

After your surgeon has scheduled your surgery, hospital staff from the Bone & Joint Center will contact you. They will guide you through the program and make arrangements for both pre-operative and post-operative care.

Who will be performing the surgery?

Your orthopedic surgeon will do the surgery. An assistant often helps during the surgery.

Should I exercise before the surgery?

Yes. You should follow the exercises listed in your NoteBook as instructed during your preoperative total hip class. Exercises should begin as soon as possible.

Will I need blood?

Every effort is made to control blood loss during surgery. However, you may need blood replacement and there are many choices to consider. If you have concerns, speak with your surgeon.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most hip patients will be hospitalized for two to three days after their surgery. There are several goals that you must achieve before you can be discharged.

How often will I need to be seen by my doctor following the surgery?

The frequency of follow-up visits will depend on your surgeon and your progress. Many patients are seen at six weeks, twelve weeks, and then yearly.

Will I need a walker, crutches or any other equipment?

Yes. You will be using a walker or crutches. After hip replacement surgery, you may need a raised toilet seat. You will also be taught to use assistive devices to help you with lower body dressing and bathing. You may also benefit from a bath seat or grab bars in the bathroom.

A therapist will discuss your needs and help you decide what equipment you may need. The care team is available to assist you in getting your equipment arrangements made.

Where will I go after discharge from the hospital?

Most patients are able to go home directly after discharge. Some may transfer to another facility. The care team will help you with this decision and make the necessary arrangements. You should check with your insurance company to see if you have benefits.

Will I need help, or therapy at home?

The first several days or weeks, depending on your progress, you may need someone to assist you with meal preparation, etc. If you need home therapy services after discharge, the care team will arrange for services to meet your needs. Family members or friends may need to be available to help you initially.

Preparing ahead of time, before your surgery, can make your discharge to home easier. Having the laundry done, house cleaned, yard work completed, clean linens put on the bed, and frozen meals available may reduce the need for extra help.

Your surgeon will discuss these needs with you before you leave the Bone & Joint Center.

What if I live alone?

Several options are usually available to you. Initially, you may arrange to have someone stay with you, with visits from home health services if ordered by your surgeon. Or you may consider a short stay at another facility following your hospital stay. The social worker is available to assist you if you have concerns.

Will I be able to get back to my normal life?

Getting “back to normal” will depend somewhat on your progress, but consult your surgeon for advice on your activity. The ability to drive, for instance, generally takes at least six weeks, but this will need to be discussed with your surgeon.

The time it takes, and whether you my return to work, and other activities, will be a decision between you and your surgeon. Much depends on your job, the activities you wish to resume, and your progress after surgery.

You will likely be encouraged to participate in low impact activities such as walking, dancing, golf, hiking, swimming, bowling and gardening.

High-impact activities, such as running, singles tennis and basketball are not recommended. Injury-prone sports such as downhill skiing are also dangerous for the new joint. Be sure to discuss any specific activities with your surgeon.

You will be instructed on hip dislocation precautions that need to be strictly followed, until your surgeon tells you to stop.

Will I notice anything different about my hip?

In many cases, patients with hip replacements think that the new joint feels completely natural. However, you should avoid extreme position, or high impact physical activity. Some patients have aching in the thigh on weight bearing for a few months after surgery.