How many of you have cared for someone who has had a hip replacement? I know that I definitely have. It seems like the majority of patients that have hip replacements done are in the elderly population. Vive Health has put together this great article talking about the reasons for hip replacements, surgery, and recovery from a hip replacement.

Hip Replacement in the Elderly

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As the senior population continues to explode in numbers, nurses are seeing more patients who have undergone common procedures like hip replacement surgery. Hip replacement surgery is typically the last resort for a patient who experiences chronic hip pain due to an injury or illness.

During hip replacement surgery, a surgeon removes portions of the hip that are damaged and replaces them with artificial components made of hard plastic, ceramic, or metal. The goal of hip replacement surgery isn’t just to alleviate chronic pain but to improve overall functioning and mitigate future mobility issues too.

Reasons for Hip Replacement

  • Osteoarthritis - older adults with osteoarthritis may experience a degradation of the protective cartilage that helps their hip joint move with ease. When the cartilage wears away, the ends of bones can start rubbing on one another, leading to pain, inflammation, stiffness, and deformity.

  • Fall - over 300,000 seniors experience a fall-related hip fracture every year according to the CDC. Hip fractures often require a surgeon to simply stabilize the bone so it can heal, however, they can also lead to hip replacement surgery where a prosthesis is inserted to replace the shattered or damaged hip bone.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis - this degenerative autoimmune condition is responsible for the type of joint inflammation which can erode the cartilage and bone in the hip joint leading to deformity, damage, and chronic pain.

  • Osteonecrosis - if the ball portion of the ball-and-socket hip joint doesn’t receive adequate blood supply, it can start dying, deform, or even collapse.

During Hip Replacement Surgery

The technology, tools, and surgical techniques employed during hip replacement and hip arthroscopy procedures continue to evolve. Surgeons are learning how to more effectively reinforce the hip with less minimal and less invasive techniques too.

The goal of a hip replacement is to closely mimic the natural ball-and-socket structure of the joint, just with artificial materials. A hip replacement generally follows this process:

  • The surgeon makes an incision through the layers of tissue in the side or front of the patient’s hip

  • Leaving the healthy bone intact, the surgeon removes the damaged or diseased cartilage and bone

  • The surgeon fixes a prosthetic socket to replace the damaged one in the pelvic bone

  • The round top of the femur bone is replaced with an artificial ball that attaches to the stem of the thigh bone

Recovery Process Following a Hip Replacement

When it comes to predicting health outcomes, the recovery period following a hip replacement procedure can play one of the most important roles.

Preventing Blood Clots

Like with most surgical interventions for mobility-limiting conditions, a hip replacement can result in an increased risk for blood clots. Early mobilization in the day or two following surgery as well as blood-thinning medications and compression hose or inflatable air sleeves can help prevent blood from pooling in the legs and causing a dangerous clot.


In addition to supplying pain relief, the goal of a hip replacement will be to restore some range of motion to the hip joint. Rehabilitation after hip replacement surgery may involve physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen important muscles that support the hip joint. Walking again will require the use of a lightweight mobility aid like a cane or walker, however, over time a patient will regain their ability to bear weight without assistance.

Monitoring for Pain and Infection

Nurses will be on the frontlines of monitoring patients for pain and signs of discomfort or infection following a hip replacement. Vitals including pulse rate and blood pressure will shed quick insight into a patient’s status after this type of major procedure. Mortality risk for total hip replacement patients is higher in the first 30 days after surgery, however, research shows that it returns to baseline within 90 days. Reducing hospital stay and preventing complications like infection and blood clots improves mortality rates.

Hospital Discharge

Whether it’s an outpatient procedure or a major in-patient surgery, discharge instructions following a hip replacement are critical to a patient’s successful recovery at home. Nurses and discharge staff can work with caregivers to train them on the best lifting techniques for assisting their loved ones as they regain strength and range of motion. Covering updated medicine schedules and in-home equipment recommendations (like raised toilet seats, grab bars, etc.) will also go a long way to ensuring patient safety and rehabilitation at home.

Effects of Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgeries are fairly common and often highly successful. In fact, a 2019 systematic review published in The Lancet found that just over half of all hip replacements last up to 25 years. Hip replacement prostheses can wear down over time, however, or become loose, infected, or experience fracturing in the bone around them. In those instances, revision hip replacement surgery will be done.

Author Biography

Jessica Hegg is the content manager at  Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle. Through her writing she works to share valuable information aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others.

AuthorCourtney Tracy