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Osteoarthritis of the Hip

What is Hip Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is caused primarily by age-related wear-and-tear that involves the deterioration of the smooth outer covering of bone, known as cartilage.

Hip osteoarthritis can occur when cartilage in the hip joint wears away, leaving less protection for the bones. When bones rub against one another, this can cause damage and result in pain around the hip joint. Ultimately the hip joint may fail causing significant limitation to mobility.

How Common is Hip Osteoarthritis?

More than one in four Americans suffer from bone or joint health problems, making it the leading cause of physical disability in the United States. The incidence of hip osteoarthritis is increasing due to the aging population and the obesity crisis. While this condition occurs most often in the elderly, younger people can develop hip osteoarthritis after experiencing a joint injury.

What Causes Hip Osteoarthritis?

The following factors can play a role in the development of hip osteoarthritis.

  • Age: The risk of developing osteoarthritis increases with age, occurring most often in individuals over 50.
  • Genetics: Those who have a family member with hip osteoarthritis are more likely to develop the condition.
  • Obesity: The stress of carrying extra weight on joints exacerbates wear and tear. For every pound you lose, 4 to 7 pounds of pressure is taken off the hip joint.
  • Joint injury: Cartilage and other hip joint structures that are damaged (by an accident or sports injury) may lead to additional degeneration.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis than men.
  • Anatomical variant: How a body part is formed in an individual can lead to increased cartilage deterioration.

What Are the Symptoms of Hip Osteoarthritis?

The following are common symptoms of hip osteoarthritis.

  • Pain with activity
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • A grinding or crunching sensation
  • Limitations in range of motion

How is Hip Osteoarthritis Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of hip osteoarthritis begins with a physical examination and x-rays. During the physical exam, your physician will examine your hip for pain, swelling and joint stiffness.

Your physician may also order blood tests to examine fluid in the joints. If osteoarthritis is determined to be the cause of symptoms, you may be referred to an orthopaedic specialist who can diagnose the severity of your individual condition.

How is Hip Osteoarthritis Treated?

The pain involved in hip osteoarthritis can often be well managed, but it takes a team of experts to offer significant relief. Sometimes exercises and medication are the solution. In other cases, surgery may be necessary.

Non-surgical Treatments for Hip Osteoarthritis

The following non-surgical interventions can help preserve the health of your hip.

  • Lose extra weight to reduce pressure on joints
  • Switch from high-impact sports (running or tennis) to activities that place less stress on hips (cycling or swimming)
  • Address any injuries when they occur

The following early non-surgical options may help you stay active and comfortable.

  • Exercises prescribed by a physician or sessions with a physical therapist to strengthen hip and leg muscles to improve flexibility and range of motion
  • Anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin or ibuprofen)
  • Injections of corticosteroids and other therapeutics

Surgical Treatments for Hip Osteoarthritis

When non-surgical treatments don’t relieve hip osteoarthritis symptoms, the following surgical options may be recommended.

  • Total hip replacement surgery (arthroplasty): Removal of damaged bone from the hip socket and the femoral head and replacing it with new joint surfaces (made of metal, plastic, or ceramic).
  • Partial hip replacement: Replacement of the ball of the hip joint and leaving the socket intact. This surgery is most often done to repair certain types of hip fractures or isolated arthritis.
  • Arthroscopy: Involves smaller incisions and uses tiny cameras and instruments to repair abnormalities in the hip that are contributing to wear and tear.
  • Osteotomy: Surgery around the hip to adjust anatomical irregularities that may contribute to wear and tear, while preserving the hip’s general structure.

Expert Osteoarthritis Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Our world-renowned Brigham and Women’s Hospital Orthopaedic & Arthritis Center team is dedicated to providing the most advanced care for all bone and joint conditions to reduce pain, increase mobility and improve quality of life for our patients.

Our specialists in orthopaedic surgery, physiatry, rheumatology and rehabilitation, work together with dedicated nurses, physician assistants and other professionals, to provide state-of-the-art evaluation and treatment for thousands of patients each year. When it’s time to consider hip replacement surgery, our expert team will work with you to determine the best surgical approach for you.

Hip Replacement

Each of our hip surgeons offer individualized treatment to each patient. You can trust our orthopaedic surgeons to provide expert, compassionate patient care.

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic specialists, please call 1-800-294-9999 or fill out an online appointment request form.

Refer a Patient

We are dedicated to working with our referring physicians. If you would like to refer a patient with hip osteoarthritis, please call 1-800-MD-TO-BWH (1-800-638-6294) or see our list of referral options.

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