Hip Replacement Overview

Brigham and Women’s Hospital is a leading provider of partial and total hip joint replacement surgery services. Last year, our orthopaedic surgeons used their experience and expertise to help improve the quality of life of 500 patients suffering from severe hip damage.

What is Arthroplasty?

Arthroplasty is a surgical procedure to replace or restore a damaged joint to ease pain and improve mobility, thereby improving the patient’s quality of life. Artificial materials, such as metal, polyethylene, or ceramics, are used to either resurface the hip joint, replacing unhealthy parts of the hip and keeping healthy parts, or replace it totally, including bone and cartilage, with a prosthesis (an artificial joint).

Visit the Hip Replacement Surgery health library page to get more information on what to expect before, during and after the surgery. 

Hip Replacement Services at BWH:

  • Total hip replacement surgery will replace your entire hip joint, the ball and socket, with artificial material such as metal, polyethylene or ceramics.
  • Hip resurfacing is a relatively new procedure in which the socket is replaced, but the ball portion of the femur, however, is covered with a hollow hemispherical cap instead of being replaced. This technique spares the bone of the femoral head and the femoral neck. BWH is one of only a few New England hospitals that offer hip resurfacing.

Who Should Get a Hip Replacement?

A healthy ball-and-socket hip joint – with cartilage that absorbs stress and allows the ball to glide freely in the socket – enables a person to walk, squat and rotate without pain. However, a person with an unhealthy hip joint is likely to experience pain when moving and may even feel pain when standing still.

The hip, like the knee, bears a lot of weight, making it particularly susceptible to the debilitating effects of arthritis – osteoarthritis, which wears down cartilage, or rheumatoid arthritis, tissue inflammation leading to the destruction of cartilage and bone. These conditions, as well as a hip fracture that doesn’t heal properly or necrosis (bone decay), can lead to severe joint stiffness and pain.

Doctors will typically start treatment by using one or more alternative medical interventions, including arthroscopy, to try to alleviate your hip pain without joint replacement surgery. If these prove to be unsuccessful, your doctor will then consider factors such as your age, weight, and quality of life goals to determine whether you would benefit from a hip replacement. The prosthesis, despite its range of motion limitations, can help to stop or reduce joint pain, increase leg strength and improve your quality of life.

Recovering from Hip Replacement Surgery

A hip replacement generally takes about 2-3 hours, followed by a 4-day stay in the hospital. Recovery largely depends on your general health before the surgery. Most hip replacement recipients experience pain relief and/or improved movement relatively soon, but then need several months to recover their normal strength and energy accompanied by physical therapy.

Your physician will give you instructions throughout your recovery, but below is an overview of what you should and shouldn’t do to improve the quality and speed of your recovery.

What can I do to help improve my recovery?

  • Sit in a firm, upright chair.
  • Keep stair-climbing to a minimum.
  • Remove throw rugs and keep floors clutter free.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with good traction and support.

What shouldn’t I do after Hip Surgery?

  • Don’t pivot or twist on the involved leg, bend forward at the waist or squat for the first 6 to 12 months following surgery.
  • Don’t cross your legs.
  • Don’t participate in any high-impact activities, such as running and jumping.
  • Don’t overexert yourself.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopaedic specialists, please call us at 1-800-294-9999.

Additional Resources

Orthopaedic Surgery Advances newsletter article: Innovative Arthroscopic Technique Preserves Chondrolabral Junction during Labral Repair and Acetabuloplasty

Anterior Approach to Hip Replacement Video

Gregory William Brick, MD, MBCHB, Orthopaedic Surgeon in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, discusses the anterior surgical approach to hip replacement.