If your symptoms are mainly from an arthritic hip, and you are physically fit enough to undergo surgery, when should you consider having your hip replaced? Hip arthritis is not a life-threatening condition: the procedure is “elective.” There are possible complications associated with hip replacement surgery (see Complications of Hip Replacement Surgery) and Dr. Hirshorn will only offer it as an option for you to consider. The decision to have the operation is a highly personal matter, and only you can make that decision. If you are confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain, it is a decision that will be quite easy for you to make, even though the operation (any operation) involves taking a certain amount of risk. If your disability is great enough, the potential benefits are worth the risk. If your arthritis is responding to conservative measures, and you can still walk long distances without a cane, you don’t need a hip replacement.
Here are some facts to help you make your decision:
- Once you have hip arthritis it will never get better. It won’t even stay the same. It will generally progress as time goes by. There are no exercises, diets, vitamins, or minerals (except, perhaps, chondroitin sulfate) which will make any difference.
- The rate of further deterioration varies greatly from person to person. The pain may become unbearable within six months for one person, yet drag on at a tolerable level for several years in another person who has the same degree of arthritis.
- You will never need a hip replacement if you are willing to live with the pain.
- More than 98% of patients who have a hip replacement operation have no major complications which leave them in any way dissatisfied with their replacement.
- The main arguments against waiting too long are:
- The longer your arthritis forces you to “sit around” the softer your bones become,and the weaker your muscles become, making rehab slow.
- If your pain and disability are not responding to conservative measures, and you realize that you are going to have to have the operation sooner or later anyway, you may reasonably conclude that there is no point in waiting. Why put it off for another year or two when you could have spent that time enjoying your life free of pain!