Total hip replacement (THR) is a surgical procedure that relieves pain from most kinds of hip arthritis, improving the quality of life for the large majority of patients who undergo the operation.
Patients commonly undergo THR after non-operative treatments (such as activity modifications, medications for pain or inflammation, or use of a cane) have failed to provide relief from arthritis symptoms. Most scientific studies that have followed patients for more than 10 years have found "success rates" of 90 percent or more following traditional THR.
Distilled to its essentials, THR involves surgically removing the arthritic parts of the joint (cartilage and bone), replacing the "ball and socket" part of the joint with artificial components made from metal alloys, and placing high-performance bearing surface between the metal parts. Most commonly, the bearing surface is made from a very durable polyethylene plastic, but other materials (including ceramics, newer plastics, or metals) have been used. Patients typically spend a few days in the hospital after the procedure (5 to 10 days is most typical), and some patients benefit from a short inpatient stay in a rehabilitation facility after that to help transition back to living independently at home. Most patients will walk with a walker or crutches for 4 to 6 weeks, most will use a cane for another 4 to 6 weeks after that; after that, the large majority of patients are able to walk freely.
A bewildering number of different implant designs, bearing surface materials, and surgical approaches have been tried to achieve one seemingly straightforward goal: improving the quality of life for patients who have hip arthritis. As with any important life decision, it makes good sense to get educated on those issues as they pertain to your hip.