Risks associated with hip replacement surgery may include:

  • Blood clots. Clots can form in your leg veins after surgery. This can be dangerous because a piece of a clot can break off and travel to your lung, heart or rarely your brain. Your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications to reduce this risk.
  • Infection. Infections can occur at the site of your incision and in the deeper tissue near your new hip. Most infections are treated with antibiotics, but a major infection near your prosthesis may require surgery to remove and replace the prosthesis.
  • Fracture. During surgery, healthy portions of your hip joint may fracture. Sometimes the fractures are so small that they heal on their own, but larger fractures may need to be corrected with wires, pins and possibly bone grafts.
  • Dislocation. Certain positions can cause the ball of your new joint to become dislodged. To avoid this, it is often recommended that after surgery you don't bend more than 90 degrees at the hip and don't let your leg cross the midline of your body. If the hip dislocates, your doctor may fit you with a brace to keep the hip in the correct position. If your hip keeps dislocating, surgery is often required to stabilize it.
  • Change in leg length. Your surgeon takes steps to avoid the problem, but occasionally a new hip makes one leg longer or shorter than the other. Sometimes this is caused by weakness in the muscles surrounding the hip. In this case, progressively strengthening and stretching those muscles may help.
  • Loosening. Although this complication is rare with newer implants, your new joint may not become solidly fixed to your bone or may loosen over time, causing pain in your hip. Surgery might be needed to fix the problem.

Need for second hip replacement

Your prosthetic hip joint may wear out eventually, so if you have hip replacement surgery when you're relatively young and active, you eventually may need a second hip replacement. However, new materials are making implants last longer, so a second replacement may not be needed for many years.

Metal-on-metal complications

Most artificial hip joints have a polished metal or ceramic ball that fits into a cup liner that's made of very hard plastic. Some types of prostheses use a metal cup liner, which may last longer but can cause other problems. Metal-on-metal prostheses are more likely to release metal ions into your bloodstream, which can cause inflammation and bone erosion. Because of these concerns, metal-on-metal prostheses are now rarely used.

Apr. 29, 2014