Living with your new artificial hip
Medical advances have made living with an artificial hip a remarkably pain-free and effective solution to hip joint problems for most.
How long will the artificial hip last?
In most cases, the hip replacement should outlast your lifespan. The 15-to-20-year data on the longevity of hip replacement components is excellent, with more than 90 percent of the implants still functioning well in many studies. But, this is neither a guarantee nor assurance, for the simple reason that life is unpredictable.
Many factors affect the future of a hip replacement or resurfacing, such as accidents, fractures, late infections, and deterioration in your overall health. How well you take care of yourself down the road is something the surgeon cannot control.
The longevity of a hip replacement thus depends on many factors, including the following:
- Surgeon skill in implanting the components
- Known history or track record of the implants
- How well you take care of yourself and your health
- Understanding and respecting the limitations of a prosthetic lifestyle
- Your activity level and body weight
- Avoiding high-impact or extreme sports
How do I know if I have a metal allergy to the hip part?
Orthopaedic implants are made of alloys of cobalt-chrome and titanium that have been implanted in millions of patients over the past several decades. Most instances of a persistently painful hip after replacement have to do with a problem related to the surgery, or possibly an infection. A true metal allergy is extremely rare, and seldom encountered in clinical medicine.
What will weather changes feel like in the hip?
Some patients report increased pain and stiffness, or can feel changes in the weather after hip surgery. These sensations are not common though, and usually will disappear over 1 to 2 years after surgery. For the first couple years, the bone adapts and grows around the metal prosthesis, and this bone activity probably leads to sensitivity to weather and pressure changes.
How about future dental work and other surgery?
Because you have an artificial hip joint in place, you must take care to protect it from infection. The same applies to any artificial implant in your body. Before having dental work (teeth cleaning, fillings, extraction or root canals) or certain medical procedures (colonoscopy, biopsy, endoscopies, etc.), you must take an antibiotic.
The antibiotic will help prevent bacteria from getting into the blood stream and thus into your hip. The odds of this happening are very rare, but the antibiotic can reduce this already small risk.
For routine dental prophylaxis following hip replacement surgery, antibiotics are recommended for your lifetime after the surgery.
In what other situations will I need antibiotics after the hip replacement?
Antibiotics given for other medical procedures may vary. Contact your physician for advice if there is any doubt. Antibiotics are needed if you develop an infection such as an abscessed tooth, pneumonia, bronchitis, and skin or urinary infections.
If you have a cut anywhere that develops an infection, conditions like a tooth abscess or ingrown toenail developing, seek medical attention urgently. Ignoring a festering sore means that there is a risk the bacteria could migrate to the hip, resulting in a serious deep infection, even though it happens rarely.
Will the new hip set off a metal detector at the airport?
Most likely, it will. Tell airport personnel that you have an artificial joint prior to entering the metal detector. Metal detection sensitivity at airports is highly variable, and it is impossible to say if a certain detector will set off the equipment. Your surgeon will supply you with an implant identification card that you can carry to prove that you have metal hip replacement parts.
Can I have a MRI scan after hip replacement?
Yes. MRI scans of other parts of your body are safe after hip replacement. Although some old MRI scanning equipment may not be compatible with your prosthesis, the majority of MRI scanning equipment today is safe and compatible with hip replacement parts. You may also have a CT scan of any part of your body after a hip replacement.
How will I know if my hip implants are recalled?
In the extremely unlikely event of a recalled implant, you will be contacted by the company who made the device. All implants have lot numbers registered with the implant maker. This information is kept in your medical record. If you want a copy of your X-ray or exact implant type and model for your records, please let your medical team know.
Rest assured that of the millions of artificial joints implanted each year, the incidence of recall is exceedingly rare. Implant companies monitor the performance of their products very carefully.
Is there a long-term risk of failure of hip implants?
Implants are engineered to withstand your body weight and activity level, but the moving parts of a hip replacement do wear over a period of several decades. A properly aligned hip replacement done by a competent, experienced surgeon will usually last the lifetime of most patients.
Subtle component mal-positioning and suboptimal orientation can however compromise the lifespan of the implant. This is why the skill and expertise with which the hip is implanted in your body is a critical determinant of durability.