Hip Replacement Complications

Advances in surgical methods have reduced the risks involved with total hip replacement. Studies have shown that this type of surgery is successful in more than 90 percent of cases; however, complications can occur. In some cases, the artificial hip becomes dislocated. This occurs because the prosthesis is smaller than the normal hip joint and the ball can come out of the socket if the hip is moved in a certain way (e.g., by sitting too low, crossing the legs, pulling the knees to the chest).

Other complications include the following:

  • Blood clot
  • Excessive bleeding (may require blood transfusion)
  • Excessive bone growth around the prosthesis
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Pulmonary embolism (blood clot that obstructs an artery in the lungs; anticoagulants can help reduce the risk)
  • Reaction to anesthesia

Following hip replacement surgery, inflammation can result when particles from the prosthesis wear off and are absorbed by surrounding tissue. Severe inflammation can result in further damage to the bone, which may cause the artificial parts to become loose. Inflammation is treated using anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, revision surgery (i.e., replacement of the joint) is necessary.

Recovery after Hip Replacement Surgery

Following hip replacement surgery, patients may need help with everyday tasks, such as bathing and cooking, for a couple of weeks. Physical therapy can help patients strengthen muscles that support the artificial hip, and can teach proper techniques for bending, reaching, and sitting to reduce the risk for injury.

High-impact activities (e.g., jogging, basketball, tennis) usually are discouraged following total hip replacement because they increase the risk for damage to the artificial hip. Types of exercise that may be recommended include walking, swimming, and bicycling.

Following hip replacement surgery, patients are at increased risk for infection from bacteria that enter the bloodstream. Patients are advised to take antibiotics before dental procedures (e.g., cleaning) and surgical procedures.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Oct 2001

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015