Total Hip Replacement FAQs

As they get older, many adults suffer hip problems as a result of arthritis or trauma. Hip pain can impair quality of life and affect daily routines by making walking and sleeping difficult. As a result, more than 168,000 Americans undergo total hip replacement surgery every year to relieve their hip pain.

Q. What is a total hip replacement procedure?

During a total hip replacement procedure the damaged hip is removed and replaced with artificial components. These components are comprised of a metal or ceramic ball and either a polyethylene (plastic), ceramic, or metal socket liner. During surgery, the femur (tip of the thighbone) is replaced with an artificial ball and the hip’s natural socket is resurfaced with a liner.

Q. Why is total hip replacement necessary?

The most common reason for hip replacement surgery is to relieve severe arthritis that limits mobility. Other reasons for hip replacement include a broken hip, bone tumor, or osteonecrosis. Prior to surgery, many hip replacement patients experience:

  • Poor quality of sleep due to hip pain
  • Insufficient pain relief from medication and therapy
  • Hip pain involving daily activities such as bathing, walking, or rising from a seat
  • Stiffness around the hip to restrict leg mobility

Q. Are there different brands and types of replacement hips?

There are a number of different brands of replacement hips, including DePuy Synthes (a division of Johnson & Johnson), Biomet, Stryker Orthopaedics, and Zimmer Orthopaedics. Replacement hip systems can also be interchangeably comprised of ceramic, polyethylene, and metal. However, many metal-on-metal hip systems have been recalled or discontinued due to durability and health concerns.

Q. What are the risks during hip replacement surgery?

In any surgery, complications can occur. Fortunately, most of these complications can be treated. Common complications during the hip replacement procedure include:

  • Infection near your new hip
  • Blood clots, resulting from pressure on your veins during surgery
  • Joint fractures
  • Nerve injury around the hip area

Q. What are the complications I may experience after total hip replacement surgery?

Patients typically expect to be relieved of hip pain after hip replacement surgery. Unfortunately, for some patients, hip pain can reoccur. Dislocation is one of the common causes of replacement hip pain. It occurs when the hip’s artificial ball and socket become dislodged as a result of their relatively small size.

Another common cause of reoccurring hip pain is hip failure. Hip failure can occur when the artificial hip joints become loosened due to new tissue growth between the artificial hip and the bone.  Wear and tear on your replacement hip can also contribute to hip failure. This rapid deterioration usually occurs in metal-on-metal hip implants. Typically, a hip replacement should last up to 20 years, but many all-metal hip implants have been reported to last only a few years.

The deterioration of all-metal hips can also lead to a dangerous condition known as metallosis. This occurs when friction between the implant’s metal parts causes metallic particles to be released into the bloodstream. Metallosis can lead to inflammation, bone damage, and even blood poisoning. As a result, several prominent hip manufacturers have recalled their all-metal hip implants. Many of these companies have even discontinued production of all metal-on-metal hip implants.

Q. What are the realistic expectations of a hip replacement procedure?

It depends. While most hip replacement surgeries are successful, complications can occur. Everyone’s body reacts differently to an artificial hip. It will also depend on the type of replacement hip you receive. For example, a metal-on-metal hip is more likely to cause complications than an all-ceramic model. In addition, an active lifestyle can sometimes contribute to premature hip deterioration.

Q. What should I do if my total hip replacement fails?

Patients having issues with their hip replacement should consult with their doctor as soon as possible. Treatments may involve additional surgery, such as hip revision. During hip revision surgery, the failing replacement hip is removed and a new artificial hip is implanted. Patients may be entitled to a free hip replacement if their replacement hip was recalled or defective. Oftentimes, hip manufacturers will compensate the patient for any out of pocket medical expenses and lost wages related to the additional surgery.

In addition, injured patients may file a product liability lawsuit to recover damages for their pain and suffering and other expenses. Under product liability law, manufacturers and sellers are liable for injuries caused by dangerous or defective products they place in consumers’ hands. Patients should consult with a product liability attorney to learn more about their legal options.