A hip replacement surgery, also known as hip arthroplasty, may be needed for severe hip pain due to age-related osteoarthritis, traumatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, avascular necrosis or a fracture. These issues not only cause pain but also lead to difficulties with mobility and everyday movements like walking and standing. While most total hip replacements are done for the elderly, they may also be needed for younger patients with severe pelvic trauma injuries, sports injuries, labral tears or impingement. As this pain can affect the quality of life, a hip replacement is often the best option to restore mobility as it is a long term solution lasting up to 20 years.

How is a total hip replacement done?

A total hip replacement involves replacing the damaged parts of cartilage and bone with prosthetic components made from metal, ceramic, and plastic. If Dr Nhlapo deems a hip arthroplasty the best treatment for you, under general anaesthesia, he will make an incision into the side of the hip.

To gain access to the hip bone, he will need to detach the main muscle covering the hip joint, the femoral head and the acetabulum. The damaged femoral head is then cut out and removed. Next, the socket (the acetabulum) can be addressed. While this bone isn't removed, the damaged cartilage and bone are shaved away leaving the socket ready for the new acetabular component. This component is wedged into the bone and over time, the implant and bone with fuse together.


The femur is then hollowed out to make space for the femoral stem implant which is placed into the bone. The ball-and-socket hip joint is now connected to one another, and Dr Nhlapo will make sure that the joint is stable and flexing correctly.

What can I expect in terms of recovery?

Your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss the outcome of surgery as well as the recovery process in detail with you once you wake up from anaesthesia. Swelling, pain and stiffness in the hip and leg after a hip replacement is to be expected. With the help of a physiotherapist, you will need to do exercises to strengthen and enhance the mobility of the hip joint. While hip arthroplasty is done to enhance mobility, you will need to make some lifestyle changes after surgery. High impact activities such as running, jogging and jumping will be advised against after such a surgery. You should be able to return to normal activities in 6 - 8 weeks of surgery, but full recovery may take up to a year.