It may surprise you to learn that surgical hip replacement is a very common operation performed in the United States. In fact, it’s reported that 370, 000 hip replacement procedures happen each year.

As with other joints in the body, your hip (which is also a joint) is prone to natural wear and tear (as well as injury) over the years. This, of course, may cause you to experience discomfort and pain that affects your quality of life. 

Your healthcare team may recommend hip replacement to improve your mobility, especially if you’re living with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis—as these are two main reasons why hip joint damage may occur in the first place.

Though common, hip replacement is a major surgery with potential risks. As such, it’s normal to feel nervous, as well as apprehensive, about your upcoming procedure. You may wonder how long recovery time will take and what type of inpatient/outpatient care is required. 

Hip Replacement 101

In this article, our aim is to help educate you, and your loved ones, by providing helpful resources on what you can expect during and after this procedure, so you feel informed and confident to take the next step in your health and wellness journey. 

Why do I need a hip replacement?

Your hip is actually a ball-and-socket joint. It connects your femur (i.e., thigh bone) to your pelvis, allowing you to move your leg back and forth and from side to side.

The femur’s head is shaped like a ball that fits into the socket. And everything is kept in place by the muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding your hip joint. 

As we already noted, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the most common reasons why a doctor may recommend this type of procedure.

In a previous article, we shared information on arthritis in seniors. You may remember that these two conditions can cause the cartilage, tissue, and lining around your joints to wear away. The result is your bones have no cushion, and they begin to rub against one another. This causes swelling, limited mobility, pain and discomfort, and stiffness in the joints.

A hip replacement aims to address these underlying issues. 

How is a hip replacement performed?

This type of surgery is performed in one of two ways:

  • Partial – meaning a part (or parts) of the hip joint is replaced with a prosthesis.
  • Full – meaning the entire hip joint (ball and socket) is replaced with a prosthesis.

Depending on the type of procedure, your surgery may take between 1-2 hours, or longer, to complete. As this is a major surgery, several blood tests, x-rays, and other pre-exams procedures will need to be completed to ensure you are ready (both physically and mentally) for the upcoming procedure. This includes checking for infection.

Hip replacement recovery time for a 70 year-old

On average, it’s reported that hip replacements are performed on patients between the ages of 60 and 80 years old. However, younger generations are also requiring this type of procedure, due to health conditions developed as children, injuries, etc. 

Of course, the higher in age the patient, the more risk associated with this type of procedure, as well as the longer the recovery time.

As every patient is different, you may be required to remain in hospital after your procedure for two days or longer. This is important, as your healthcare team will be monitoring your blood pressure, breathing, discomfort level, alertness, and other vitals.

It’s very likely your doctor will recommend physical rehabilitation following your surgery to help you regain strength and mobility, as you get comfortable with the prosthesis. You may require the support of crutches or a walker and will be unable to operate a car for several weeks.

Be sure to ask your doctor about your expected recovery time. Also, ask how long you may need to stay in “in-patient” care.

Infection after hip surgery

Another reason you may need to stay longer at the hospital is to help prevent infection or the spread of infection after surgery:

“There is a risk for infection after hip replacement surgery. The current incidence is between 1 to 2 percent, and higher if there are non-optimized medical co-morbidities.”

Cleveland Clinic

Other risk factors for hip replacement

In addition to infection, the potential for blood clots to develop may temporarily increase in your legs. This is why your healthcare team will work to get your body moving within 24 hours after your surgery. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, fractures may occur during surgery and dislocation may also develop, where the ball comes out of the socket, weeks after surgery. 

For a full list of other risks, check out their resource page.

It’s also important to remember that hip replacements are not permanent:

“Joint replacements don’t last forever — although experts have noticed that modern prostheses can last longer than the ones that were used years ago. Hip revision surgery may become necessary if an artificial hip becomes painful.”

Cleveland Clinic

Outpatient Hip Replacement Recovery at Sweetwater

If you live at Sweetwater, be sure to contact us to learn which therapy options you’ll have access to post-op.

At each of our locations, we offer residents access to a dedicated, on-site, nursing team, who is available 24/7, if needed. Your independence is important to us, and we want to make sure you feel supported and empowered throughout the recovery process!

A Final Thought

It’s important to talk to your healthcare team and loved ones about the risks and rewards of this type of procedure. Be sure to ask questions and have a family member there to hear the information and take notes, so you have them to refer to later.

You’ll also want to develop a recovery plan for after the surgery to ensure your needs are met, and you are able to focus on getting better. Again, if you are a resident at Sweetwater, please contact our team to learn how we can help post surgery.