Signs & Symptoms of a Need for Hip Replacement

By J.R. Erickson

Hip-replacement surgery is becoming an increasingly common procedure. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, nearly 193,000 hip-replacement surgeries are done in the United States annually. A variety of conditions indicate whether you might be a candidate for hip-replacement surgery.

What is Hip Replacement Surgery?

Hip-replacement surgery is a procedure in which all or some portion of a damaged hip is removed and replaced with a man-made hip or prosthesis. The intent of the surgery is to reduce pain and increase mobility for the patient.

Osteoarthritis: A Common Cause

People often seek hip-replacement surgery when they suffer from osteoarthritis. This chronic condition involves a deterioration of cartilage. This can be very painful because cartilage cushions and protects the ends of the bones. When cartilage breaks down the bones begin to rub together.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteonecrosis

Two more conditions that can lead to a need for hip-replacement surgery are rheumatoid arthritis and osteonecrosis. Rheumatoid arthritis involves the inflammation of a joint lining. When the lining becomes inflamed, it swells and may destroy surrounding bone and cartilage. Osteonecrosis is a disease that causes the blood supply to an area of bone to decrease or be lost. This loss of blood can cause the bone to break down and collapse.

Physical Signs and Symptoms

Certain signs indicate the possible need for a hip replacement. In addition to the arthritic conditions above, traumatic stress or an injury to the hip area, pain, stiffness and limited mobility are warning symptoms. Although all are indicators hip-replacement surgery may be necessary, they are not conclusive. The need for surgery depends on the degree of pain and stiffness experienced by the patient. Doctors often recommend hip-replacement surgery when daily activities, such as dressing and walking, become too difficult.

Signs Perceived by Physician

In addition to monitoring a patient's physical symptoms, a physician has other ways to determine if hip replacement is necessary. A physical exam and a patient history help the doctor determine where strain is being put on the hip. X-rays are taken to determine how much the bones and cartilage have deteriorated. Finally, blood tests are done to see if the hipbone or joints are infected.

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