Softening the Blows
Think about how much wear and tear your hip takes. The hip supports the weight of the upper body, absorb the impact of walking, running and other physical activities, and are even working when youre sitting. Essential to the strength of your hip is the cartilage surrounding it. It acts as a cushion between the femur, thighbone, and the socket of the hip. When cartilage in the hip begins to deteriorate, as with the result of injury, aging or other disorders like arthritis, intense pain and loss of functionality may result. This is the point on should consider either hip resurfacing or hip replacement. But what are the differences?
Without hip cartilage, the bones connecting the joints rub up against each other; its a little like the shocks in your car wearing out. Hip resurfacing and hip replacement help to counteract this. Since every impact to the hip can be severe and results often are very painful, a hip replacement or hip resurfacing can help reduce the pain. Hip pain is a hard condition to live with, especially if youre used to a more active lifestyle.
In milder cases, hip surgery may not be necessary; however, more advanced conditions require a more aggressive treatment, such as hip resurfacing or hip replacement.
If youre suffering from serious hip pain, there are two approaches your orthopedic surgeon will most likely recommend: hip resurfacing and full hip replacement. Since the decision to undergo either of these procedures is essential, your doctors advice is essential.
Before comparing the benefits and disadvantages of hip resurfacing and full hip replacement, though, you should know what exactly each one is. Heres a quick breakdown:
- Hip Resurfacing: Anatomically speaking, the end of the leg bone is a round ball, which fits into a corresponding space in the hip bone. Hip resurfacing surgery caps the ball with a metal prosthesis while preserving the bone. Because of technological advances, however, hip resurfacing is much less invasive than in years past, usually requiring only small incisions. Recovery takes a bit longer than other minimally invasive surgery, but most patients are able to walk unassisted after 2 to 3 weeks. A resurfaced hip joint can last up to 20 years without complication.
- Hip Replacement: Hip replacement is a more involved surgery. Where resurfacing only involves working with the existing ball of the bone, replacement entails replacing the damaged area with an artificial ball joint. An additional rod is also used to fuse the joint to your existing body structure. The goal is to remove problematic areas and replace them with a specially molded, artificial joint that will work more properly than the damaged original. As with resurfacing, recovery from this procedure is a bit of a process; in most cases, patients remain hospitalized for 4 to 6 days, but usually with the aid of physical therapy, crutches or a walker, patients recovering can start walking again within a few days of the surgery. Replaced joints typically last for up to 15 years.
But how do these procedures compare? Which way should you go? As with many questions in medicine, the answer is: it depends. When asked this in a medical advice column published by The New York Times, Dr. Patrick Meere, an orthopedic surgeon at New York University, noted that the indications for hip resurfacing have narrowed significantly over the past few years. He continues the ideal candidate would be a robust middle-aged man intent on returning to heavy-loading sports like running (see reference #3). Women can also be good candidates, of course, depending on the specific situation.
There are a number of conditions that are factors in hip resurfacing or replacement, including osteoarthritis (a cartilage disorder that leads to joint swelling), poor bone quality, and other certain bone conditions like severe osteonecrosis (death of bone tissue).
Since resurfacing relies on existing bone structures, the bones need to be in good shape. As such, orthopedic surgeons will usually recommend resurfacing or replacement for those under age 65 who want to continue active lifestyles. While complications can occur, recovery from hip resurfacing is typically faster than replacement. Evidence suggests a rate with a better range of motion from replacement.
A Sure Step Forward
When considering medical procedures, everything should be seriously considered. The biggest question to ask yourself is what kind of life do I want to lead? However, no matter what kind of lifestyle, living with chronic hip pain shouldnt be one of the options.
If youre feeling pain every time you walk, you have options to help treat it. Hip problems of this nature tend to be degenerative, worsening over time, so doing nothing is certainly a misstep.
To learn more about these procedures, as well as a number of other orthopedic solutions, talk to one of our Patient Care Managers at Onward Orthopedics. You can reach them at (800) 577-1693 today.
- Sonny, B. Hip Resurfacing. March 11, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1358168-overview.
- Arthritis and Hip Replacement Surgery. May 10, 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/hip-replacement-surgery#1.
- The New York Times. Hip Replacement vs. Hip Resurfacing. February 26, 2010. http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/hip-replacement-vs-hip-resurfacing/.