How do I know if I need hip replacement surgery?

It is certainly true that not everyone with hip joint pain needs a total hip replacement, but when your quality of life grows increasingly diminished due to painful osteoarthritis, you may be advised by your doctor to consider options for hip replacement surgery. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when you’ve had enough pain and are ready to seek a medical solution. Many people will endure the pain for months and even years before speaking with their physician.

Dr. Ian C. Clarke, medical researcher and founder of Peterson Tribology Laboratory for joint replacement at Loma Linda University, writes, with regard to hip pain “When you can’t do the quality things in life that you need to be doing you know you need a hip replacement.” The doctor qualifies his statement by saying “painful twinges” due to excessive activity, such as too much running or lots of dancing, does not necessarily mean you need a hip replacement. On the other hand, if you are unable to accomplish normal, daily activities such as dressing in the morning, taking a shower, walking, and getting into bed, then your quality of life is being impacted.

If you cannot conduct your business due to pain in your hip joint, or if you cannot comply with your job description, or if you need medication to sleep at night because your pain is so severe, then you should consider talking to a surgeon about whether hip replacement is right for you.

Remember that hip pain can radiate from anywhere in or around the hip joint. In some cases, you may not be able to feel the pain directly over the hip; you may feel it in your thigh. Pain in the hip can also sometimes suggest problems with the back. By identifying the specific type of pain which is impacting your life, you have a better chance of arriving at a medical solution. Your surgeon will help you to decide if hip replacement surgery is necessary.

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From a clinical standpoint, a surgeon will consider total hip surgery for a patient when alternative methods such as changes in activities, mild painkillers, and physiotherapy have been exhausted. Depending on the age of the patient and the damage to the tissue, the surgeon may suggest arthroscopy or a partial hip replacement before a total hip.

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Through the use of radiographic technology such as X-rays, CT, MRI, and ultrasound testing, a surgeon will be able to see how much joint cartilage has been lost and therefore how justified a total hip surgery is in each patient scenario. When all other alternative therapies have either failed or wouldn’t work in the first place, and when radiographic tests show a loss of cartilage that make up the “joint space,” then your surgeon may recommend a total hip replacement.

image credit: flickr.com/horiavarlan

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