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Benefits and risks of hip replacement surgery

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Hip replacement has a high success rate with a low likelihood of complications. Learn about and discuss the risks and benefits with your surgeon.

Hip replacement surgery can have many upsides. But, like any surgery, it also comes with a few potential risks.

If you're considering having your painful, worn-out hip replaced, you'll want to carefully discuss the procedure's benefits and risks with your surgeon. Here's a look at some of the things your conversation may include.

Benefits of hip replacement

A new hip may give you a new lease on life if you're dealing with discomfort and your activities are limited by stiff, sore joints. For example, hip replacement can:

Relieve a lot of your pain. Most people who have their hip replaced experience an approximately 95% reduction in their pain, the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons reports.

Help you move. Hip replacement surgery can improve how you move your joint. As a result, many common activities—like walking, getting out of a chair, or bending to put on socks and shoes, may be easier for you.

Get you back to your regular activities. With less pain and improved mobility, you may have the freedom to enjoy your favorite hobbies again, as well as recreational activities and low-impact sports like golf and cycling.

Potential risks of hip replacement

Hip replacement surgery is a safe surgery with a low complication rate, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). Here are some of the potential risks you should discuss with your surgeon. He or she will help you understand how likely the complications are for you and discuss a plan for reducing your risk.

Blood clots. Blood clots can develop in the legs after many types of surgery. Clots can be life-threatening if they enter the lungs. Your recovery plan from surgery will include steps to help prevent clots. This may include taking blood thinners, wearing special compression stockings and doing exercises. Your surgeon will also help you learn to recognize the signs of clot so you can get treatment right away if one occurs.

Infection. Less than 2% of people who have a hip replaced develop an infection, according to the AAOS. A common cause of infection after hip replacement is bacteria entering the bloodstream during a dental procedure, having a urinary tract infection or having a skin infection. Your surgeon will discuss infection prevention strategies with you, such as taking antibiotics prior to dental procedures.

Dislocation. Though it's uncommon, it's possible that the hip ball could come out of the socket. The risk of dislocation is greatest in the first few months after surgery while the tissues are healing, according to the AAOS.

To prevent dislocation, your surgeon may have you take precautions when sitting, bending or sleeping. The steps your surgeon advises you to take will depend on the approach they used to perform the hip replacement.

Unequal leg length. Although surgeons try hard to avoid it, sometimes after a hip replacement one leg is made slightly longer or shorter than the other in order to ensure a stable hip. If a leg-length difference does occur, it is usually mild. If it requires treatment, a shoe lift may be all that's needed.

Loosening and wear of the new joint. A new hip can last a good many years. But over time, the prosthetic components in a hip replacement can wear out or loosen. If this happens, the components may need to be replaced in a second procedure, called revision surgery.

Find out if a hip replacement is right for you

If you're living with hip pain that isn't being helped enough by non-surgical treatments, talk to an orthopedic doctor. Find out if hip replacement or other therapies might be right for you.

If you are a candidate for hip replacement, your surgeon can give you a more complete picture of the benefits and risks.

Reviewed 9/13/2021

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