Is it Time for my Hip Joint to be Replaced?

Orthopaedic & Spine Center

Image of senior man gardeningJohn D. Burrow, DO

A question I’m often asked by my patients is “How will I know when it’s time for a hip replacement?” As their orthopaedic physician, I tell them, “You’ll know when it’s time and you’ll tell me when you are ready”.  Why do I say that?  I believe that my job is to diagnose hip arthritis and recommend to my patients the appropriate therapies that I would suggest for a member of my family.  I can offer advice, guidance and sometimes, a shoulder to cry on, but ultimately the decision to have hip replacement surgery is the patient’s alone.  If you’re considering hip replacement surgery, here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  1. What’s my quality of life?  If your hip pain causes discomfort, but medications, exercise and physical therapy help manage your pain, and you are able to do pretty much everything you wish to do, surgery would not be recommended.  However, if your hip hurts constantly, treatments haven’t helped and thinking about what you can and can’t do because pain pervades your day is common, hip replacement surgery may be the best choice.
  • Can I do the activities I want to do? Some of my patients are very active or athletic and are on the go constantly.  Others spend most of their time on the sofa or riding a recliner, watching their favorite TV show.  No matter your activity level or lifestyle, if pain keeps you from going skiing, picking up your grandkids, kayaking or gardening, then it may be time to consider hip replacement.
  • Have I tried all of the treatment options that are available and are recommended by my surgeon?  There are oral medications, injections, Physical Therapy, at home exercise regimens, etc. that are often recommended for treating hip arthritis.  But, weight loss is often one of the most effective ways of treating this condition.  For every pound lost, ten lbs. of load is taken off your hips.  Have you tried topical creams, supplements like glucosamine chondroitin, or improving your nutrition by eating an anti-inflammatory diet?  If this answer to all of these questions is yes and your hip pain remains severe and disabling, you may wish to consider surgery.
  • Have I considered all of the risks and possible complications of a hip replacement surgery?  Hundreds of thousands of hip replacement surgeries are performed successfully every year in the United States. However, all surgeries carry risks and the potential for post-surgical complications, such as infections and blood clots (DVTs).  I discuss all of these with my patients so that they can make an informed decision about their healthcare.