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8 common questions about hip replacement

Doctor smiling and placing hand on patients shoulder.

If you're considering hip replacement, there's a lot you need to know. These common questions are a good place to start.

If your doctor recommends hip replacement surgery, you'll probably have a lot of questions. These answers to common questions can help you get started. Ask your doctor for specifics about what you can expect from hip replacement surgery—and afterward.

1. Is it painful?

A: You will have some pain after surgery, but your doctor will prescribe medicines to help you control it. It's worth noting that hip surgery is less painful than in the past because both surgical techniques and pain-control methods have improved. Also, hip replacement tends to be less painful than knee replacement, according to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS). So keep that in mind when asking someone who had a knee replaced about their pain.

2. Is it safe?

A: Hip replacement is extremely safe, and the rate of serious complications after surgery is low, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)—less than 2%. You are even less likely to have a life-threatening complication during the surgery itself. Every surgery does have some risks, of course. It's important to talk with your surgeon about them. For instance, blood clots can occur, new hips can become dislocated and implants can loosen over time.

3. Can it be done under regional anesthetic?

A: Surgeons can use different types of anesthesia when they perform hip replacement—including regional anesthesia. With regional anesthesia, you remain awake during the surgery, but your hip area is numb. While general anesthesia is safe, regional anesthesia may have a lower risk of complications, according to the AAHKS.

4. What is the success rate?

A: Hip replacement surgery is one of the most successful surgeries performed today, according to the AAOS. It can help relieve your pain and improve joint function so that you can continue to perform many activities comfortably and independently.

5. How long does recovery take?

A: Everyone's recovery is different, but most people can expect to:

  • Spend a few days in the hospital. Even before you go home, you'll be up and walking with assistance.
  • Resume many of your activities (including driving and light work) within four to six weeks.
  • Return to most activities, including working at a demanding job, by three months.

6. How long will the new hip last?

A: Thanks to better technology and materials, the prosthetic hips used today can last for 15 to 20 years. How you use your new hip may affect its longevity. Follow your doctor's advice to avoid high-impact activities, like jogging, jumping or playing high-impact sports like basketball. These types of activities can cause an implant to wear out sooner.

7. Can younger people have hip replacement surgery?

A: Most joint replacement candidates are older than 50. If you have the surgery at a young age, you might need a second surgery later, since hip implants have a limited life span. However, age alone is not a determining factor in deciding who can have joint surgery. Regardless of your age, you might be a good candidate if you are in a lot of pain, have a hard time getting around and have tried other treatments that haven't helped. Your surgeon will consider your eligibility to have the surgery based on your individual circumstances.

8. What activities will I be able to do with my new hip?

A: Quite a few! A new hip won't make you an elite athlete. But you should be able to enjoy many everyday activities like shopping and low-impact sports, such as walking, golfing, hiking, dancing and swimming.

Reviewed 8/25/2021

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