Arthritis affects close to 25 million people in America in one form or another. To some, their arthritic condition turns out to mean more than twinges of pain through strenuous activity. For more than 3 million seniors, osteoarthritis results in the complete functional destruction of the hip joint. It brings life to a standstill as the condition completely wears down all cartilage in the hip joint.
Close to a quarter-million seniors each year decide to take action to leave the debilitating condition behind. They elect for hip arthroplasty or hip replacement surgery, trusting modern medical science to return them to a life of vitality and pain-free activity.
What is hip arthroplasty?
When people suffering from osteoarthritis of the hip joint are told about taking the replacement option, the first question that naturally comes to their minds is about how a bone as large as the pelvis might ever get replaced. Hip replacement, though, is a somewhat misleading name. It isn’t the entire pelvis that is replaced; it’s only the hip joints.
Hip replacement is a procedure that replaces the ball and socket that keeps the thigh bone connected to the pelvis. Surgeons resurface the socket with plastic, metal or ceramic. Often, the surgery also calls for a new prosthetic ball for the thigh bone. In most cases, the natural bone that these prostheses are placed on bonds to these devices on its own through natural bone tissue growth. There is no cementing necessary. The body also naturally lubricates its newly replaced joints with synovial fluid, making movement smooth and pain-free.
At one time, electing for hip replacement meant that patients had no choice but to go through major surgery. With recent advances, minimally invasive surgery is possible. Such surgery uses far more difficult processes than conventional methods, and patients may face complications. It’s important to go with a surgeon who has successfully completed at least 80 surgeries. It takes such experience to successfully perform minimally invasive hip arthroplasty.
Is hip arthroplasty an all-or-nothing proposition?
Conventionally, hip replacement surgeries have involved a resurfacing of the pelvic socket, and an actual full replacement of the head of the thigh bone ball with a deep metallic root inserted several inches into the bone. Hip resurfacing surgery is an alternative to this procedure. It requires full, open, major surgery, and involves only the placement of a small, prosthetic cover over the head of the thigh bone. Neither method is better than the other — each has different applications.
Surgeons consult a Surface Arthroplasty Risk Index to determine the form of hip replacement that might best suit a patient. Total hip replacement is an excellent idea for those who plan for activity that involves much stretching. Hip resurfacing is the better idea for large, robust, middle-aged people who plan to take up heavy-duty exercise such as running.
It doesn’t make sense to insist on minimally invasive surgery
Doctors often attempt to steer patients away from minimally invasive surgery, and towards the conventional method that involves a large incision. Understandably, patients are often uncomfortable about not being allowed the latest method available. It’s important to understand, though, that opting for the latest method available achieves little. Patients enjoy far greater success rates with the conventional method.