What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Hip Replacement

hip replacement

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, more than 450,000 total hip replacements are performed each year in the United States.1 That’s a lot of hip replacements! Unfortunately, hip replacements are common, which means that it could happen to you, but fortunately, that means it’s a common procedure that is very successful. No matter how fit you are or how much you take care of yourself, you still have a chance of needing a hip replacement at some point in your life, so it’s important to know the signs of needing a hip replacement, alternative options to hip replacement, the process of the surgery, and how to recover.


What Happens to Hips


Knowing about our hips can help us understand how they can be damaged. Our hips are a ball-and-socket joint located where our thighs meet our pelvis. At the top of the femur, or thighbone, is the ball, which is called the femoral head. The femoral head lies within the socket called the acetabulum, which is located at the pelvis. Between the femoral head and the acetabulum is cartilage and fluid which help to cushion and lubricate the movement of the joint. Thin tissue called the synovial membrane surrounds the hip joint, and ligaments help connect the femoral head to the acetabulum. Typically, hip replacements are used to help when there is damage done to the tissues and cartilage between the ball and socket, causing this area to be inflamed (which is painful) or cause the cartilage to wear away, leaving the bones to start to grind against each other (which is very painful). The cartilage can wear away over time, meaning that even though people of all ages could need a hip replacement at some point, seniors are more likely to need them later in life.


Signs You Need a Hip Replacement


You could be an Olympic-level athlete and still wind up needing a hip replacement someday, but when should you start considering it? The truth is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The first sign of trouble unsurprisingly is pain in your hip. If you experience any new pain, consult your doctor. When it comes to hip pain, your doctor can help you decide if a hip replacement is the right treatment option for you. However, a hip replacement typically isn’t recommended until other, more conservative options are determined as insufficient for managing your symptoms. Elderly hips need extra care, and unchecked hip pain will usually only increase over time and also increase your risk of falling. While an Alert1 In-Home + Fall Detection Medical Alert pendant can summon help immediately when falls happen,2 seeing a doctor when hip pain starts is step 1.


But what makes you more likely to need a hip replacement? According to OrthoInfo, common causes of hip pain are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, posttraumatic arthritis, osteonecrosis, and childhood hip disease.3 While osteoarthritis is associated with age-related damage, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, and posttraumatic arthritis occurs after a serious injury, meaning people of any age can be impacted by these types of arthritis, not just seniors. Similarly, osteonecrosis occurs when there is an injury to the hip that limits the blood supply to a portion of the hip, specifically, the femoral head, and childhood hip disease can lead to a greater chance of hip arthritis later in life. 


Alternatives to Hip Replacement


Knowing why we would need a hip replacement doesn’t necessarily help us avoid getting one. The first way in which we can avoid hip replacement is to prevent hip damage. According to the Orthopedic Performance Institute, the best ways to keep your hips healthy are to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, and avoid inflammation.4 Maintaining a healthy weight will prevent too much weight from constantly straining your joints, and exercise can help to strengthen the muscles around your joints. Strong muscles will help to keep your joints well aligned and also help to reduce unnecessary pressure or grinding. Avoiding inflammation can help to keep the cartilage within the joint healthy and also prevent or alleviate pain.


The second way we can avoid a hip replacement is to look for nonsurgical alternatives. The most conservative way to avoid a hip replacement is to use a combination of physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication to reduce hip pain and improve hip function. Sometimes, this is enough to improve your mobility and get you back to the activities you love without the looming threat of hip pain. But if conservative treatment options are not enough, or if the pain comes back, a more aggressive approach is needed. Before you jump into a hip replacement, speak to your doctor about these alternative options to see if any of them seem right for you.

  • Cell Therapy Injections: According to the American Hip Institute, “Your bone marrow and fat contain progenitor cells that can transform into bone or cartilage cells to regenerate injured tissue.”5 The new cells will replace any tissues in the joint that were damaged. This type of treatment is great for people whose hip problems started with an injury, but if the cartilage in your hip wore down because of a chronic illness that will strike again, then a hip replacement may last longer and be a better option for you than this treatment.


  • PRP (platelet rich plasma) Therapy: Platelets have regenerative properties that can be used to promote healing. This therapy extracts the plasma from your own blood and reinjects it into the injury site in order to promote the healing and regeneration of the hip tissues.


Hip Arthroscopic surgery is another option for people who do not want a hip replacement. In this procedure, tiny holes are used for a surgeon to access the hip to fix problems such as hip pain from tears of the labrum, abnormal bone growth, snapping tendons, or bursitis.5


Options for Hip Replacement


There are different types of hip replacements. Sometimes, only a partial hip replacement is needed. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “During total hip replacement (total hip arthroplasty), both the ball and the socket are replaced. A partial hip replacement only replaces the ball (the head of the femur).”6


Sometimes, there is also the option of getting minimally invasive surgery as opposed to a traditional hip replacement. If your surgeon determines that a minimally invasive approach is right for you, then the surgery will involve only one or two small incisions, and the surgeon will move the muscles aside in order to gain access to the hip. With a traditional hip replacement, the surgeon makes one large incision to get to the hip, cutting through the muscle instead of going around. Because of this, the surgeon will have better access to the hip, but the recovery period will be longer in order to give the muscles more time to heal. Since the muscles are part of the supportive structure of the hip, it is important to give them the time they need to heal in order to prevent hip dislocation. If you know you will be receiving a traditional hip replacement, definitely consider getting an Alert1 On-the-Go Medical Alert System with GPS and Fall Detection ahead of time to help aid you through your recovery period.7 The built-in fall detection sensor can detect falls and automatically call for help, making it one of the best safety alarm devices for seniors.


What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Hip Replacement


If you and your doctor have come to the decision that a hip replacement is the right treatment option for you, here’s what you can expect. First, after you check in for surgery and change into a hospital gown, you will be administered anesthetics. Typically, the surgery can be completed within 2 hours. During the surgery, the surgeon will make the necessary incisions, remove the damaged portions of the hip, and replace them with implants. The ball part of your hip will be replaced with a ceramic ball and a metal stem that attaches to the femur. A metal cup is inserted into the pelvis with a plastic layer on the inside so that the ceramic ball will be able to rotate freely. Once the implants are all set up, your incisions will be closed and bandaged.


After Surgery


When the surgery is finished, you will be moved into recovery to wait for the anesthetics to wear off. Typically, the time spent in recovery is relatively short, and most people go home the same day. In the weeks after surgery, you will be instructed on how to prevent blood clots in your legs and be directed to go to physical therapy. In physical therapy, you may also learn how to walk with aids such as a cane, a walker, or crutches, depending on what’s right for you. Eventually, the goal is to gradually add more weight to your leg until you are able to walk without assistance. This is a really great time to use an affordable medical alert device with fall detection technology.




According to Mayo Clinic, the risks of getting a hip replacement include blood clots, infection, fracture, dislocation, and change in leg length.8 Many of these risks are very likely to lead to falls and further injury. If you’re recovering from a hip replacement, protect yourself from fall risks with an Alert1 medical alert device like the On-the-Go Wrist Watch Medical Alert + GPS + Pedometer. This system’s built-in step counter can help you track your progress as you get back on your feet while also making it easy to call for help if a fall should occur.9


While there are some risks to getting a hip replacement, the greatest risk when you’re experiencing hip pain is to do nothing at all. Talk to your doctor to find out what treatment options are right for you, and don’t be discouraged if you ultimately need a hip replacement. Hip replacements might seem scary at first, but they’re meant to get you back on your feet and back to doing the things you love.


Regardless of your prognosis, Alert1 will always be there to help you every step of your journey.