3 hip replacement myths
As with any surgery, hip replacement patients have many questions or concerns about the procedure, the recovery process and how their lifestyle will change. With endless information available on the Internet and television news, patients often have misconceptions about joint replacement.
Dr. Shawn Palmer, orthopedic surgeon on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., dispels some common hip replacement surgery myths. An expert in the anterior or minimally invasive approach, he has performed more than 3,000 joint replacements over the last decade.
MYTH #1: After hip replacement surgery, one leg will be longer or shorter than the other.
Dr. Palmer says: There are three ways to consider leg length: what is measured on the X-ray, what is observed by the patient and others, and what is perceived during activities. An experienced surgeon will consider each of these as well as how leg length is influenced by posture, spinal curvature, the opposite hip and implant position. It is quite common for a new hip to feel too long for a patient who can suddenly stand up straight after years of stooping forward over a painful arthritic hip. This feeling is temporary and not a surgical error.
Although rare, it is possible to lengthen or shorten a new hip during a surgical error. Most hip replacements are performed from a conventional approach that relies on the surgeons “feel” to determine implant position and leg length. The anterior approach is an alternative to conventional hip replacement that ensures accuracy, reduces operative time, minimizes blood loss and dramatically reduces recovery time. This approach allows for real-time X-ray throughout the procedure as each component is positioned. As a result, leg length is confirmed before the final result is accepted.
MYTH #2: Hip replacement surgery requires a long, painful recovery.
Dr. Palmer says: A majority of hip replacement patients describe their recovery time as a few days of discomfort. Patients will often tell me that the experience on the day after surgery is actually more tolerable than the pain from the arthritic joint before the hip replacement. A majority of patients resume daily activities like showering immediately and driving in less than two weeks. They can typically return to work and recreational activities in three to six weeks following surgery.
MYTH #3: You can’t exercise or participate in sports activities after a hip replacement.
Dr. Palmer: The expectation for joint replacement surgery is the relief of pain and a significant improvement in physical abilities. All patients may choose to return to moderate-intensity activities such as golf, tennis and cycling. Patients have returned with no restrictions to their professions as police officers, firefighters, paramedics, commercial pilots, fitness instructors, and countless others. A hip replacement is not the beginning of a new limitation. A successful procedure is a new beginning to an active lifestyle.
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