Many of the patients I talk with are under the impression that they will become more active after hip replacement. They are concerned about undergoing such a big, high-risk surgery that involves getting their hip amputated, but they are hopeful and excited about the prospect of returning to running, mountain climbing, biking, or any other activity those cheerful joint-replacement TV commercials show. The problem is, this impression is likely wrong as new research doesn’t support increases in activity following hip replacement. In fact, this study shows quite the opposite, that activity levels are no different after a procedure than they were before. Before we get into the details of that study, let’s review some of the other wrong impressions many patients have about hip replacements.
This tops the list of wrong impressions about hip replacement because so often it’s pain that finally drives a patient to make the decision to undergo this drastic surgery. And so many of the patients I talk with believe this is the sure answer to their pain. Unfortunately, the reality is that 67% of patients still report pain following hip replacement.
Maybe it’s because these surgeries have become so common, maybe it’s because the commercials make it look so promising, or maybe patients have just been told the benefits far outweigh the risks of surgery, but the reality is, if you believe a hip replacement isn’t that risky, your impression is very wrong. Hip replacement carries serious risks and potential complications. For example, patients who have undergone a hip replacement are over 25 times more likely to have a heart attack within two weeks following surgery.
Why? When you amputate a hip joint, the blood vessels and bone marrow space experience a great deal of severe trauma. This can increase the risk that blood clots will develop, and these clots can travel to the heart, creating blockages and causing a heart attack. The anxiety alone involved in simply the idea of having the hip joint amputated can put additional stress on the heart.
In addition to heart-attack risk, other risks associated with hip replacement include stroke; hemorrhages; metal ions in the blood, leading to toxicity and pseudotumors; allergies to the prosthetic joint; bleeding stomach ulcers; and hip misalignment. Read more about the 10 common risks on this informative infographic: “Facts About Hip and Knee Replacement.”
The belief that a hip replacement will increase your activity level so that you’ll surely be more active after hip replacement is another wrong impression that needs to be debunked. The new study on activity levels after a total hip replacement was a meta-analysis. This means many studies, in this case 17, were compiled and analyzed. Included were studies that provided measurements of physical activity prior to and up to one year following hip replacement. The meta-analysis conclusion: “There is no statistically significant difference in physical activity levels before and up to one year after unilateral primary total hip replacement.”
To further support this, I’ve shared studies before regarding activity levels following hip replacement. One on jogging, for example, showed that if you weren’t jogging prior to your hip replacement, it’s unlikely you will jog following your hip replacement. For those who didn’t jog prior to the surgery but who had hoped to begin jogging after, they found it impossible due a number of issues: pain, anxiety, decreased range of motion, muscle weakness, and low back or knee pain. In addition, only 70% of those that did jog prior to their hip replacement did so after. So some patients actually lost ground.
The upshot? If you weren’t biking, jogging, or climbing mountains before you had a hip replacement, it’s highly unlikely you’ll suddenly be more active after hip replacement. And even if you were doing these things prior to surgery, there’s a good chance you’ll never get back to the activity level you once enjoyed. Throw into the mix the continued struggles with pain following hip replacement and the serious risks involved. Understanding the wrong impressions you may have about hip replacement should help you come to the right decisions when considering this surgery.
About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…