hip replacement x-ray

Hip Replacement vs Hip Resurfacing

We don’t think about how much wear and tear our musculoskeletal system takes on a daily basis, especially our hips. As we age, everyday use wears down the bones and cartilage inside the hip joint. This natural degeneration of the bones and cartilage inside the hip is the cause of one of the most common condition affecting the hip, called osteoarthritis. This is a painful condition that causes severe chronic pain, stiffness in the joint, and limited mobility, which inhibits people from going about their daily tasks and activities. The good news, is that surgical procedures such as hip replacement or resurfacing help man people restore function and mobility, reducing the pain caused by bone on bone friction in the hip.

The hip joint is where the ball of the thigh bone (femur) joins the pelvis at a socket called the acetabulum. There is cartilage covering both the bone of the femur and the acetabulum of the pelvis in the hip joint. This helps to prevent bone on bone friction, keeping the bones from wearing down. Damage to any of the hip joint components will cause significant chronic pain, discomfort, and dysfunction (limited mobility).

There is a tissue lining surrounding the hip joint, called synovium, which produces fluid, and is responsible for lubricating the joint and providing nutrients to the cartilage of the joint. The hip joint is one the large joints of the body which most importantly enables us to have a wide range of mobility, helping the thigh move forwards and backwards. Without hip cartilage, the bones connecting the joints will rub up against each other, causing painful friction, inflammation, and in some cases, bone deformity.

If you have been suffering with hip pain and reduced function, it’s important to consult with an orthopedic specialist to diagnose the problem. If tests show that surgical intervention is required to treat your case of hip osteoarthritis, there are two solutions: hip resurfacing or hip replacement. Both hip resurfacing and hip replacement procedures involve removing the damaged hip joint and replacing it with a prosthetic joint. Hip pain is a hard condition to live with, and if you are an active person especially, not being able to do what you love is a major problem. That’s why Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence stays up to date on the best, most advance surgical options for repairing and replacing degenerative hips. So, what are the differences between hip replacement and hip resurfacing? 

Hip Replacement

Hip replacement surgery, also known as hip arthroplasty, is a technique which has become widespread in recent years in response to the need for repairing hip joints that have been damaged by injury or arthritis. According to research, last year, approximately 300,000 Americans underwent a total hip replacement to relieve the pain of an arthritic or broken hip joint.

A hip replacement is a surgical procedure where the diseased cartilage and bone of the hip joint is surgically replaced with a prosthetic joint. As mentioned before, the normal hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The socket is a “cup-shaped” component of the pelvis called the acetabulum. The ball is the head of the thighbone (femur). Hip replacement involves the surgical removal of the diseased and degenerated ball and socket joint, replacing them with an artificial hip implant, where a metal, ceramic, or plastic ball and cup socket is inserted into the femur bone. An additional rod is also used to fuse the joint together. The goal of hip resurfacing is to remove problematic areas and replace them with an artificial joint that will help the hip to work more efficiently than the damaged original.

Typical candidates for hip replacement surgery are patients experiencing hip pain who have not responded well to traditional treatment methods, such as physical therapy or pain medications. As with resurfacing, recovery from this procedure is a bit of a process, depending on the severity of the case, and the person. In most cases, patients remain hospitalized for 4 to 6 days, but usually with the aid of physical therapy, crutches or a walker, patients recovering can start walking again within a few days of the surgery. For patients who are recipients of hip replacements, their artificial hip should last up to 15 years or more, and will most importantly, improve their quality of life by allowing them to go about their lives with minimal pain.

Hip Resurfacing

Anatomically thinking, the end of the leg bone (femur) is a round ball, which fits into a space within the hip bone (socket). During hip resurfacing surgery, the ball joint is covered with a metal prosthesis while preserving the bone. 

In other words, hip resurfacing, unlike hip replacement surgery, is a procedure that only deals with the ball of the hip. During this procedure, the surgeon reshapes the damaged hip ball, which then is capped with a metal prosthesis. The damaged hip socket is also fitted with a metal prosthesis as well.

Hip resurfacing has become popular, and has attracted younger patients, because it has been said that this procedure preserves more bone, and is often considered to be a better solution than a total hip replacement. However, depending on the damage and condition of the joint, hip resurfacing may not be enough needed for repair.

Today, the sockets used during hip replacement surgery, are composed of two main components: a metal socket into which bone grows, and a plastic liner. This is an important distinction because if for some reason the hip fails and more surgery is necessary, the entire socket in a resurfaced hip most likely will need to be removed and replaced with a new one. If hip replacement surgery fails, and more surgery is needed to revise the socket, the hip resurfacing procedure is designed, so that only the plastic liner has to be revised, not the metal shell.

In other words, the fact that hip resurfacing preserves more bone is important, because having more femoral bone available will make the femoral revision easier. Physicians often say to their patients, that it is easier to deal with bone loss on the femoral side than on the socket side.

Recovery after the hip resurfacing procedure takes a bit longer than other minimally invasive surgeries, due to the procedures complex nature. Most patients are able to walk unassisted after two to three weeks. A resurfaced hip joint can last up to 20 years without complications.

To learn more about hip replacement and hip resurfacing, and if you may be a candidate, call Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs at (719) 623-1050 or request an appointment online.