Hip Replacement Surgery Risks and Complications

Hip replacement is generally a safer procedure, but as with any surgery, some potential risks and complications can occur with this surgery.

Following are some possible hip replacement complications and risks that you should be aware of prior to pursuing this treatment option.

Blood Clots

Blood clots, medically known as thromboembolic disease, can form in the veins of the legs as a result of decreased leg movement after surgery. The matter of concern is that if a blood clot develops, it is possible that it dislodges and travels to the lungs, which can potentially be life-threatening.

In order to prevent blood clots from forming you may be given blood thinning medications after the surgery, or you may be asked to wear elastic stockings, and do exercise to increase blood flow in the leg veins.

Infection

One of the most feared complications include infection that can occur at the site of incision and in the deeper tissue around the artificial hip joint. The surgery can involve primary infection, late onset infection or even a superficial infection. If left untreated, these infections can be fatal.

At the time of surgery, several measures are taken to lower the risk of infection of a hip replacement. Antibiotics are given to the patient before, during and after the surgery to minimize the infection risk. The surgery is performed in a filtered operating room using the most sophisticated sterilization techniques and sterile instruments.

Bleeding

Blood loss is a common risk in hip replacement surgery, lading you to develop a post-operative anemia, or low blood count.

For hip replacement surgery, patients may be asked to donate blood, approximately two units of blood, for themselves prior to the operation.

Hip Dislocation

Certain positions can cause your new hip to become dislocated. In around 1 in 20 cases, the replaced femoral head can come out of the replaced socket. Hip dislocation is most likely to occur in the first two months after the surgery when the muscles, ligaments, and the normal bony structure of the hip joint are still healing.

In order to avoid hip dislocations, the patient needs to maintain appropriate positioning in the early post-op period. They should not bend the hip up beyond 90 degrees, they should not cross their legs and strictly avoid sitting on sofas or in low chairs

Loosening

Although this complication is rare, your new hip joint, whether press-fit into the bone or cemented into position, may not become properly fixed to your bone and become loose over time. Post-op implant loosening is a matter of great concern as the problem can be fixed only by a revision surgery which is a much more difficult operation.

Fracture

There are several factors that can lead to small or larger fractures after hip replacement surgery. In rare cases, healthy portions of your hip joint or femur (thighbone) can be split or cracked during the surgery. Inaccurate positioning of the implant and breakage of prosthesis stem also lead to fracture.

The very small fractures usually heal on their own, but severe fractures can only be corrected surgically with the aid of wires, cables or bone grafts.

Wear and Tear

Hip replacement components are made of artificial materials and may wear out over time. The metal ball moves back and forth against a plastic socket, this will result in wear of the socket.

Change in Leg Length

After hip replacement, your one leg may become longer or shorter than the other. A small leg length discrepancy can be resolved with a lift in the shoe of the shorter leg. The treatment of a larger leg length discrepancy is surgery where the implants are re-sized or additional bone is removed.