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Frequently Asked Questions about Hip Disorders & Treatments

The following frequently asked questions are an overview of some of the most commonly asked questions regarding hip disorders and procedures. The orthopaedic surgeons and care team at the Valley Hip & Knee Institute will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have about your specific needs.

Questions? Call us at 818.708.9090

Hip Surgery FAQs

How do I determine if hip replacement surgery is the best option for me?

One of the most common reasons for hip replacement surgery is to provide relief from severe osteoarthritis pain or other disorders that limit a person's mobility or negatively impact their quality of life. In such cases, usually the pain has not improved in response to other nonsurgical treatment options. Hip replacement surgery, involving implants, is usually performed in people age 60 and older. Hip implants can wear out over time, especially in individuals who have more active lifestyles or who live longer. If a second hip replacement is needed in the future, it may not result in the same outcome as the first procedure.

Because hip disorders are not life-threatening, hip replacement surgery or resurfacing procedures are considered "elective" operations. As with any surgery, hip procedures carry the risk of side-effects and complications. The decision of whether or not to undergo hip surgery is personal for every patient, and only you can make that decision. As a rule, most patients decide to have surgery if/when the benefits outweigh the risks.

Here are some facts that may help in making your decision:

  • Once you have osteoarthritis in the hip, it will never get better. It will generally worsen over time. There are no exercises, diets, or supplements that will cure it.
  • The rate of further hip deterioration differs greatly from person to person. The related pain also can vary. Some people are willing to live with a certain degree of pain, while others may find it unbearable.
  • You may believe that it is better to delay a hip operation in the hopes that hip replacement technology will improve with time. However, the rate of progress in this area is slow, so this option is something best considered if you are young, or if your arthritis or pain is mild and you can easily live with your symptoms.
  • Many patients who have a hip replacement experience no major complications that leave them in any way dissatisfied with their implant.
  • Arguments against waiting too long include: a) osteoarthritis has the potential to make your bones progressively softer and your muscles progressively weaker over time, and b) if your pain and disability are not responding to conservative measures, it is likely that you will need hip surgery at some point in the future. Why not be pain-free sooner?

Reasons why hip surgery may not be the best option for you include:

  • Morbid obesity (body weight greater than 300 lbs.)
  • Persistent infections
  • Heart or lung problems that make major surgery more risky

If you are still in doubt about having hip surgery after consultation with an orthopaedic surgeon, a second opinion may give you the reassurance you need. Discussing your concerns with your family physician or primary doctor, rheumatologist, and/or other individuals who also have undergone hip surgery may also be beneficial.

What personal health information should I share with my orthopaedic surgeon when being evaluated for hip surgery?

It is essential that your orthopaedic surgeon be informed about your complete medical history including medications, past illnesses and operations, any problems you may have had with your kidneys, allergies, and any known sensitivities to metal (for example, if you have had any reactions when wearing jewelry, watches, or metal-frame glasses).

What kind of recovery and mobility should I expect after hip replacement surgery?

After undergoing a hip replacement procedure, it is reasonable to expect that you will be able to resume your usual lifestyle, but without the hip pain. However, this will take time, as your body needs to be given the chance to heal properly to ensure your best possible outcome.

Recovery time will vary from patient to patient, and depends on each patient's age, the procedure performed, the patient's general health, and other factors. In most cases, patients will use a walker or crutches for several weeks after the operation, and transition to using a cane outdoors and no support at home.

How much pain will I be in when recovering from a hip replacement procedure?

The level of discomfort varies from person to person, but patients most report minimal pain between 48 and 72 hours after their operation (provided they are taking their prescribed medication and are following their doctor's instructions). Patients also need to follow their prescribed physical therapy regimen. Patients typically use prescription pain medication for about a month after surgery before switching to over-the-counter pain medications.

What kind of assistance will I need during my recovery? Will I need physical therapy?

Patients will need help standing, as well as when using stairs, for at least the first week after hip replacement surgery. Patients also will need some help with bathing, dressing, cooking, shopping, and housework for a couple of weeks. Therefore, it is recommended that a friend, family member, or someone from a home health service be available to assist patients when they go home. A physical therapist will typically visit the patient two to three times a week to design and implement a home exercise program; the patient will eventually be able to do these exercises with no assistance.

When can I drive?

Hip replacement patients should wait 4 to 6 weeks before driving, especially if the procedure was performed on the right hip. Patients should also discontinue their prescription pain medication before driving is resumed.

When can I go back to work?

Determining when a hip replacement patient can return to work depends on the type of job he or she performs. If the job is does not require active movement, the patient may be able to return to work in about one month. For more active jobs, the patient may need up to 3 months before returning to full-time duty. It's important to note these times can vary from person to person and job to job.