Image for ceramic hip articleHip replacement surgery can change the lives of people who have suffered through years of hip pain and discomfort. Surgery can relieve pain and increase mobility.

What Is a Hip Replacement?

The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint in the upper portion of the femur (thigh bone). A diseased hip joint can cause extreme pain and limit mobility. A hip replacement is a surgical procedure that removes the degenerated hip joint and replaces both the ball and/or socket with artificial parts. The parts are usually anchored in the bone of the thigh and pelvis.

Who Should Get a Hip Replacement?

Conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lack of blood supply to the bone, external trauma, joint infection, and bone tumors can lead to the breakdown of the hip joint. Before a hip replacement is performed, most people will try using non-surgical therapies, including canes and other walking aids, medications, and physical therapy. If these therapies fail to relieve pain and improve mobility in the hip joint, hip replacement surgery may be advised.

Choosing an Artificial Hip

In the past, some artificial hip joints weren’t able to withstand large amounts of stress and strain and tended to wear down with constant patient activity. Today's versions are sturdier with better wear characteristics, making them suitable for more active people.

Artificial hips have three parts:

  • The stem, which fits into the femur
  • The ball, which replaces the head of the femur
  • The cup, which replaces the damaged hip socket

The stem of most hip implants are made of metal alloys. The ball portions are made of metal or ceramic materials. In some artificial hips, the stem and ball are one piece. The socket can be made of metal, plastic, or a combination of both materials.

You and your doctor will choose an artificial hip that meets your individual needs. Factors to consider include your:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Bone quality
  • Activity level
  • Overall health

While hip replacements successfully relieve pain and restore movement, future surgery may be needed as the implant wears. The majority of implant devices last approximately 20 years before they require replacement.