Hip Replacement Surgery: What to Expect Before, During and After

If your loved one finds that his or her hip joint pain is limiting their daily activities, from getting dressed to walking up stairs to getting out of a chair, then it may be time to face the possibility of hip replacement surgery. However, the unexpected challenges after the surgery may cause anxiety for both the aging adult and his or her family caregiver.

Hip replacement surgery, also known as arthoplasty, is a procedure in which the diseased parts of the hip joint are removed and replaced with new, artificial parts, called the prosthesis. The prosthesis consists of steel components: a socket, ball and stem. The surgery is performed to increase mobility, improve the function of the hip joint and relieve pain.

Preparation for Hip Replacement Surgery
Once your loved one and his or her surgeon has decided hip replacement surgery is the best option, your loved one should receive a physical examination by his or her primary care physician to ensure any other health problems are identified and treated before surgery. Smokers should speak with their physicians as smoking can increase surgical risks in addition to slowing down the healing process. It is also likely that your loved one will need extra blood during the surgery. There are two options available – your surgeon may place an order with the blood bank in case a transfusion is necessary, but your loved one can also donate his or her own blood ahead of time to reduce the risk of the body reacting to the blood transfusion.

What does hip replacement surgery entail?
A typical hip replacement surgery lasts from 1 to 2 hours. A 6- to 8-inch incision over the side of the hip allows the surgeon to remove the diseased bone tissue and cartilage from the hip joint, while leaving the healthy parts of the join intact. The hip joint is located where the upper end of the femur meets the hip bone. A ball at the end of the femur, called the femoral head, fits in a socket, called the acetabulum, in the hip bone to allow a wide range of motion. The head of the femur and acetabulum are replaced with the new, artificial parts.  These materials allow a natural gliding motion of the joint.

Cemented vs. Uncemented Prosthesis
Each patient's situation is unique and your loved one should discuss with his or her surgeon whether cemented or uncemented prosthesis is a better choice. Studies have shown that both have comparable rates of success.

Older, less active patients with weaker bones who suffer from osteoporosis often receive cemented replacements, while uncemented replacements are used for younger, more active patients.

Uncemented prosthesis' primary disadvantage is a longer recovery period as it takes longer for the natural bone to grow and attach to the prosthesis. Patients receiving uncemented replacements must limit activities for up to 3 months. Uncemented prosthesis can also lead to increased thigh pains in the months immediately after the surgery.

What To Expect After Hip Replacement Surgery
The typical hospital stay after receiving hip replacement surgery is three to five days. Immediately after the surgery, your loved one will be allowed only limited movement and will typically use pillows or a special device to brace the hip in the correct position while lying in bed. One day after the surgery, therapists will begin teaching your loved one exercises to improve recovery. After one to two days, your loved one may be able to sit on the edge of the bed, stand and walk with assistance. Your loved one will also work closely with a physical therapist, learning exercises to contract and relax certain muscles to strengthen the hip and learning proper techniques for daily activities, such as bending and sitting.

After returning home from the hospital stay, your loved one will need to continue exercising as directed by the physical therapist. Remaining active and regularly practicing the required exercises are the quickest ways to a successful recovery. Full recovery typically takes three to six months, depending on your loved ones overall health and success of his or her rehabilitation.

If your loved one needs assistance during the transition to recovery, Right at Home is here to help with many in-home care services.


  1. Barry October 14, 2010 01:56 PM

    About half (53%) of the older adults who are discharged for fall-related hip fractures will experience another fall with in six months.

  2. Susan Baida November 26, 2010 12:24 PM

    One of the most important "phases" of recovery is actually BEFORE the surgery takes place, when the patient and their family and friends gather around to discuss post-surgical care providing. Recovery can be fast or it can take months, and even with all of the technological advances, there are factors that are specific to the patient that can't be known ahead of time. Getting everyone on board before the surgery for the "worst" case scenario -- to make sure that the patient is set up for professional care providers even after rehab is over, is a vital piece of recover AND a chance for the family to comve together.

  3. Angela Roeber November 29, 2010 10:17 AM
    Thank you for the thoughtful comments and for the added advice and caregiver resource. We know our readers appreciate the wealth of information!

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