May 2, 2024

What You Need to Know About Total Hip Replacement

Blog Graphic for What You Need to Know About Total Hip Replacement

Hips and knees are two joints that go through a lot throughout a person’s lifetime. Whether it’s regular wear and tear or complications from an injury, one might eventually need a total hip replacement.

Dr. Isidoro (“Izzy”) Zambrano, Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon at Fort HealthCare and a Fellow in the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, offers helpful information about this surgery—including his personal approach and how the procedure has evolved over the years.

Identifying Symptoms and Setting Expectations

A key indicator of hip issues is pain—pain accompanying certain physical activity, sitting for long periods of time, or while driving. Another is reduced mobility. Individuals may have difficulty putting on their socks and shoes.

Orthopedic doctors typically start with taking x-rays to see what might be going on with the hip. In some cases, an MRI might be necessary to get a more in-depth view. Dr. Zambrano uses imaging to illustrate to the patient what is involved in the surgery.

“We end up replacing the socket and the cup. The cup is a metal prosthesis. It’s going to be a press-fit stem that goes into the femur, and where it connects is going to be plastic and cobalt chrome,” he notes.

Hip Surgery Advancements

Hip replacement surgery has improved dramatically over the past few decades. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, patients often left the procedure with a leg discrepancy—one leg longer than the other. Today’s technology allows for precise measurement to ensure leg length consistency.

Dr. Zambrano prefers to perform the surgery from the “front,” which is known as the anterior approach. “I like coming in from the front because their chance of dislocation is very minimal. Their chance of nerve injury is minimal. I see my patients get back to their sports and their activities a lot faster.”

Another advancement is the “life expectancy” of the replacement. Most hips will last 15-20 years, but Dr. Zambrano shares that medical scientists are working to extend that. “Nowadays, in a lab, with the newer plastic that we have, it’s lasting hopefully twice as long. We just don’t have data on that quite yet.”

What Patients Can Expect Post-Surgery

Many patients return home the same day of surgery, depending on their age and support resources. Others might stay overnight or go to a rehabilitation center for a few days. “We used to have people here at least three, four days, but we’ve refined the way we do things. The postoperative care and the postoperative pain management allows them to go home the same day,” shares Dr. Zambrano

Full recovery may take up to 12 weeks, depending on the patient’s unique circumstances. Dr. Zambrano cautions why it’s critical to follow the postoperative instructions.

“I do have them be cautious because it is a metal implant that goes into a circular bone, so it could still break. We check the x-rays at around three months. We look at the radiographic signs on the x-ray that shows stable fixation. And that’s when I let them go free,” he says. “I’ve had several patients who have gone back to water skiing, snow skiing, wakeboarding, riding a bike, and essentially moving around quite well.”

If you or a loved one is living with hip pain or reduced mobility, Dr. Zambrano encourages a meeting with an orthopedic physician to uncover what the problem might be.