If you’ve been experiencing hip pain and immobility, you may be wondering if you’re a good candidate for hip replacement surgery. Seeing a hip specialist to determine your next course of action can help you understand your treatment options and if surgery is right for you.
Hip replacement surgery may be one of your best options if other treatment methods have failed. Before your doctor confirms that a replacement is the next course of action, they must determine if you’re a good candidate for hip replacement surgery.
IBJI recently chatted with Dr. T. Andrew Ehmke, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with fellowship training in joint replacement. He informs us when you should start considering surgical options and discusses what makes you a good candidate for hip replacement surgery. His responses—below—have been edited and condensed for space.
What Makes Someone a Candidate for Hip Replacement?
While treating hip and knee arthritis patients, Dr. Ehmke is commonly asked, “How do I know when it’s the right time?” and “Am I a good candidate for hip replacement?” As always in medicine, the answer is, “It depends,” says Dr. Ehmke.
The doctor will look at these things to determine if you’re a good candidate for hip replacement or if the underlying issue is an entirely different problem.
Arthritis of the Hip
The first thing to consider is arthritis, as this symptom needs to be present for a replacement. “I make sure you have arthritis of the hip joint and not another condition such as tendon or muscle inflammation, or even a pinched nerve in the back,” says Dr. Ehmke.
“Having a joint replacement done for any reason besides a painful joint will not help you and will probably make you feel worse. I will go over X-rays and MRI scans with my patients to show them where their arthritis is and how severe it is.”
It is also essential to consider what type of symptoms the patient has. According to Dr. Ehmke, “Arthritis is an interesting disease, in that some people have it on their X-ray, but don’t experience symptoms from it. This is where examining your pain history (e.g., where does it hurt? what makes it worse or better?) is extremely important.”
Review Treatment History
Another consideration to determine if you’re a good candidate for hip replacement is to look at your history with previous treatment methods.
“Patients with hip arthritis will usually have significant relief from an injection, even if it is extremely brief,” says Dr. Ehmke. “If I am considering if someone is having symptoms from their arthritis and they tell me they had an injection and didn’t get any relief at all (not even for a few hours), it will make me consider if the pain is coming from another source around the joint or the back.”
Dr. Ehmke adds, “I have seen many patients in my office who came to me to have a hip replacement done for a hip or knee problem, and it turned out they didn’t have arthritis. We treated the issue at hand, and they got better without undergoing major surgery.”
How Much Is Hip Pain Affecting Your Life?
If arthritis is present, causing significant pain, and is clearly seen on an X-ray, the physician will consider a replacement as the next option. During this phase, they ask how the pain is affecting your life.
“If patients are avoiding the things in life they love, such as taking walks, exercising, playing golf or tennis, or even simple activities such as using stairs (and despite trying multiple treatments such as injections, anti-inflammatories, and exercise), it is probably time for a joint replacement,” says Dr. Ehmke.
“I never want to rush a patient into surgery before they are ready, but when we talk about timing, it is important to consider the longer you are inactive because of arthritis, the weaker and stiffer your muscles and joints will become. This might lead to a longer recovery to get yourself back to the level you were at before.”
It’s vital to have a frank discussion with your surgeon about the pros and cons of hip replacement and if you’re a good candidate for hip replacement surgery. Everybody’s situation is different. Patients that lead an active lifestyle may not be able to tolerate arthritis pain as much as someone who is sedentary.
We always weigh the risks of the procedure with the benefits, so it’s essential to go through your current and past medical issues to ensure you are a candidate for hip replacement surgery. If you are someone that can continue to live life without any limitations and control the pain with occasional injections or medicines, then surgery may not be suitable for you.
However, if you’ve tried everything and seen the quality of your life decrease by missing out on all of the activities you love to do, then a joint replacement can change your life and get you back to being you.
Get Relief From Your Hip Pain Today
Hip Care and Treatment at IBJI
Whether you are just starting your hip care journey or need a second opinion on whether or not you’re a candidate for hip replacement, IBJI’s hip surgeons are here to provide you with the necessary care for your ailment. Get the relief you’re seeking with the help of IBJI.
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Last updated in April 2022.
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