Hip Replacement: When It’s Time to Say “Uncle”

Let’s say you are an active, 40 plus year-old jogger, tenniser, or gymnophile, and you or your best friend has noticed a change in your mobility, posture, or gait; or you are beginning to get some unusual pain in your knees or groin; or you notice you’re not as quick to get up and go as you once were. It’s more than likely, despite your ‘youth’ you are suffering from osteoarthritis (a common joint problem), what your grandparents called rheumatism. It develops as a combination of your genetics, aggravated by overuse (e.g. repeated running, martial arts, contact sports, etc) and if this is you-obesity.

Now, if it forces you into a change however gradual, in your lifestyle or activities, or you find you’ve started taking pain medication on a regular basis, it’s time to stop, and see an orthopedic specialist. You may well be a candidate for a hip resurfacing or replacement by an experienced Orthopedic Surgeon.

Alternately, let’s say you are 60 plus, and know you have to limit your activities, even walking short distances because they result in hurting, or you have morning stiffness often accompanied by pain. The problem and solution are likely the same.

I am an Orthopedic Surgeon, who has performed and taught young doctors in training to perform total hip replacement surgery. Then having experienced some of the above problems, needed and had two of my own hips replaced. So as the saying goes, I’ve been on both sides of the table.

Then as a result of the experience, determined to write a practical hand book that explained and narrated the experience from diagnosis to recovery in plain, common English for those who might need a Total Hip Replacement or it’s younger version a Hip Resurfacing.

This year 450,000 people will undergo hip replacement surgery and another 100,000 have a hip resurfacing. It is anticipated that these numbers will increase by 175% over the next 2-3 years. Forty-Six million people in the USA sixty or over have arthritis of one or several joints. Their disability ranges from mild (heat, medication and rest do help) to disabling (nothing relieves).

Despite what you may have heard about miracle drugs, special joint treatments and substances, medications do not presently provide the cure for arthritis, BUT…the condition can be treated by replacing or resurfacing the joint. In other words we can’t alter diseased or distorted hip, knee and shoulder anatomy, but we can replace it. Hips are among the most common joints affected by arthritis and hip replacement or resurfacing procedures the most successful.

If “Uncle, I quit” has become a reality for you- here are a few recommendations:

  • Don’t ask a friend for an experienced surgeon; use your GP or internist to recommend.
  • On your first visit be sure to bring a written list of your history, medications, allergies and conditions – and note no question you want to ask is unimportant or off the table.
  • Avoid Metal-on-Metal implants-ask your surgeon about this critical issue.
  • Good information about the procedure will make you part of the solution, not part of the problem – be your own advocate. Read or watch any material your surgeon offers.
  • After your surgery YOU will be the first to notice any problem, however minor. Don’t ignore it. Report immediately to your doctor for explanation or treatment.