Hip Replacement 101

Are You Thinking about Hip Replacement Surgery?

Hip Socket

Femoral Component

All Hip Components

Hip Repaclement X-Ray

The hip is one of the body's largest weight-bearing joints.  It consists of two main parts: a ball (femoral head) at the top of the thighbone (femur) that fits into a rounded socket (acetabulum) in the pelvis.  Bands of tissue called ligaments (hip capsule) connect the ball to the socket and provide stability to the joint. The bone surfaces of the ball and socket have a smooth durable cover of articular cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones and enables them to move easily.

A thin, smooth tissue called synovial membrane covers all remaining surfaces of the hip joint.  In a healthy hip, this membrane makes a small amount of fluid that lubricates and almost eliminates friction in the hip joint allowing pain-free movement.

The most common cause of chronic hip pain and disability is arthritis. Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and traumatic arthritis are the most common forms of this disease.

Osteoarthritis usually occurs after age 50 and often in an individual with a family history of arthritis. It may be caused by subtle irregularities in how the hip developed. In this form of the disease, the articular cartilage cushioning the bones of the hip wears away. The bones then rub against each other, causing hip pain and stiffness. Learn more... 

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the synovial membrane becomes inflamed, produces too much synovial fluid and damages the articular cartilage, leading to pain and stiffness. Learn more... 

Traumatic Arthritis can follow a serious hip injury or fracture. A hip fracture can cause a condition known as avascular necrosis. The articular cartilage becomes damaged and, over time, causes hip pain and stiffness.  

If your hip has been damaged by arthritis, a fracture or other conditions, common activities such as walking or getting in and out of a chair may be painful and difficult. Your hip may be stiff and it may be hard to put on your shoes and socks. You may even feel uncomfortable while resting. If medications, changes in your everyday activities, and the use of walking aids such as a cane are not helpful, you may want to consider hip replacement surgery.  By replacing the damaged or arthritic hip joint with an artificial joint, hip replacement surgery can relieve your pain, increase motion and help you get back to enjoying normal, everyday activities.

Is Hip Replacement Surgery Right for You?

The decision to have hip replacement surgery should be a collaborative one between you, your family, your primary care doctor, and your orthopedic surgeon. The process of making this decision typically begins with a referral by your doctor to an orthopedic surgeon for an initial evaluation. Recommendations for surgery are based on the extent of pain and/or disability and general health status. You may benefit from hip replacement surgery if:

  • Hip pain limits your everyday activities such as walking or bending
  • Hip pain continues while resting
  • Stiffness in a hip limits your ability to move or lift your leg
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to not relieve pain
  • You have harmful or unpleasant side effects from your hip medications
  • Other treatments such as physical therapy or the use of a walking device does not relieve hip pain

If you answered yes to one or more of these conditions, you may want to schedule an evaluation with your orthopedic surgeon. There are typically four steps in the evaluation process including a:  

  • Medical History -Information is collected regarding your general health, the extent of your hip pain and how it affects your ability to perform every day activities.
  • Physical Examination - To assess your hip's mobility, strength and alignment.
  • X-rays - To determine the extent of damage or deformity in your hip.
  • Lab Tests - Blood tests and other tests such as an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a bone scan may occasionally be needed to determine the condition of the bone and soft tissues of your hip.


Your orthopedic surgeon will review the results of your evaluation with you and discuss whether hip replacement surgery is the best method to relieve your pain and improve your mobility.  Other treatment options such as medications, physical therapy, or other types of surgery may also be considered. Your orthopedic surgeon will explain the potential risks and complications of hip replacement surgery, including those related to the surgery and those that can occur over time after your surgery. Learn more about hip replacement surgery...