Overview of Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement, also called total hip replacement, is a surgical procedure in which damaged parts of the hip joint are replaced with artificial parts (prosthesis). The goals of total hip replacement are to relieve pain, improve function of the hip joint, and increase mobility.

The hip joint is one of the largest weight-bearing joints in the body. It is a ball-and-socket joint in which the thighbone (femur) fits into a rounded socket (acetabulum) in the pelvis. The top of the thighbone (femoral head) is connected to the socket with bands of connective tissue (ligaments), which help to make the hip joint stable. A thin layer of smooth, elastic tissue (articular cartilage) cushions the ends of the bones within the hip joint.

Hip X-ray - Masterfile Image

The most common cause for hip damage is osteoarthritis. Other conditions that can damage the hip joint include the following:

  • Bone tumor
  • Injury
  • Osteonecrosis (death of bone tissue caused by inadequate blood supply to the bone)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Damage to the hip joint can cause pain and interfere with daily life. Conservative treatment may include physical therapy, exercises to strengthen the muscles surrounding the hip joint, walking aids (e.g., canes, walkers), and medications (e.g., acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs]). In some cases, stronger medications, topical pain relievers (analgesics), corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone, cortisone), and joint lubricants may be used.

When these treatment methods are ineffective, a procedure called an osteotomy may be performed. In an osteotomy, bones in the hip are realigned to shift pressure and weight to a healthy bone surface. If hip function worsens and pain continues, total hip replacement may be necessary.

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

Published: 31 May 2007

Last Modified: 28 Sep 2015