Alternatives to Hip Replacement Surgery

Christie Auyeung Orthopedic Surgery Leave a Comment

Each year, more than 250,000 Americans undergo total hip replacement surgery. If you have difficulty walking or hip pain due to severe arthritis or an injury, hip replacement surgery may be able to improve your mobility and quality of life.

But traditional hip replacement surgery is a major and invasive procedure, requiring a multi-day hospital stay initially, and three to six months for a full recovery. In many cases, you may have other options that are less invasive or can get you back to your daily life sooner.

What Is a Hip Replacement?

The hip joint is where the upper end of the femur (thigh bone) meets the pelvis (the hip bone). The top end of the femur is shaped like a round ball and fits into the hip socket, which allows a wide range of motion in the joint.

Hip replacement (also called “arthroplasty”) is a 1 to 2 hour long surgical procedure in which the surgeon makes a 6-8 inch incision on the side of the hip through the muscles, removes the diseased or injured bone tissue and cartilage from of the hip joint and replaces it with a prosthesis. The artificial joint glides smoothly and provides a wide range of motion, which helps increase mobility, improve function of the hip joint and relieve pain.

5 Alternatives to Hip Replacement Surgery:

Alternatives to hip replacement surgery may relieve your symptoms, be less invasive, or have a faster recovery time. These include:

Nonsurgical Treatment

Patients who have arthritis, but can still go about their day-to-day life normally, may choose to live with their condition. There are treatments that address arthritis symptoms, such as physical therapy, walking aids, anti-inflammatory medications, cortisone injections, and joint supplements. For most people, there is no harm in delaying surgery until you feel it is the right time, after other more conservative treatments have failed, or the pain is interfering with your daily life.

Anterior Approach Replacement Surgery

NPR ran a story a few years back about a different technique to used perform the hip replacement procedure that can drastically reduce recovery time. During an “anterior” hip replacement, the surgeon would enter the hip joint from the front of the thigh, rather than from the back. Dr. Michael Alexiades says this anterior approach cuts through less muscle, results in less pain, and can cut recovery time in half. Even though there’s no conclusive evidence showing this approach provides better results than traditional hip replacement surgery, some people may be willing to give it a try. Patients who aren’t good candidates include people with bone deformities, those getting hip replacement surgery for the second or third time, or patients who are obese.

Hip Resurfacing

In hip resurfacing surgery, only a small amount of bone is removed from the hip joint. Then, a metal cap is placed on top of the ball at the top of the femur, and a metal socket is placed in the hip bone. With this approach, more normal bone is preserved, and the implant is smaller. Hip resurfacing is more common among younger patients, but concerns have been raised in recent years about using metal-on-metal joint replacements.

Partial Hip Replacement

During partial hip replacement, only the ball of the hip joint is replaced. This procedure is more commonly performed for patients with hip fractures, where only the ball of the hip is damaged, rather than for patients with arthritis, where the socket of the hip is also damaged and needs to be addressed.

Stem Cell Treatment

Stem cell treatment is a significantly lower risk, less intrusive alternative that could be as successful as a hip replacement. This entails extracting stem cells from other areas in your body, concentrating the cells, and re-injecting them into the damaged area of the hip to help the body heal naturally. You can learn more about stem cell treatments compared to hip replacement here.

There are a number of options for patients who want relief from hip pain, but don’t want to undergo a procedure as invasive as a total hip replacement surgery. Whether you want to reduce healing time or exhaust more conservative approaches before going under the knife, there are many non-surgical options to explore.

Interested in hip replacement surgery or the above alternatives? Contact one of our surgeons today.

Christie is a UChicago grad currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In her free time, she enjoys tap dancing, learning to windsurf, and trying new foods.