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Hip Replacement: Getting More Than A New Joint

hip replacement complications

When considering a hip replacement, there’s one simple question you need to ask yourself: do the risks of having the surgery outweigh the risks of not having it? Unfortunately, the answer might not be nearly as simple as the question. First, you need to make sure that you know and understand all of the potential hip replacement complications and side effects that are likely following a hip replacement. So other than a brand-new hip joint, today we’re talking about what else you might be getting with a hip replacement: hip replacement complications.

What You May Be Getting When You Get a Hip Replacement: Hip Replacement Complications and Side Effects

A few months ago, we explained why you should be concerned about the particles that wear off of your artificial hip device after hip replacement. They increase metal levels in the bloodstream, can create pseudotumors that cause pain and inflammation, and may cause genetic issues and increase cancer risks. And no material is completely resilient—cement, metal, plastic—wear particles from any of them can create problems. Let’s take a look at a few more the types of problems and hip replacement complications you might be getting when you get a hip replacement.

Continued Chronic Pain

We just mentioned those pseudotumors, associated with wear particles, that can cause pain after hip replacement, but even in the absence of pseudotumors, continuing pain is common after hip replacement. One study found that as much as 67% of patients who have a hip replacement patients still suffer from the most common hip replacement complication – chronic pain. Most patients eventually end up pulling the trigger on a hip replacement in the hopes of eliminating their pain, so this study shows that this highly invasive surgery may not be the solution in most cases for hip pain relief. Why would a patient still be in pain after hip replacement? There could be something else causing the pain…

The musculoskeletal system functions as one whole unit, not a series of individual pieces. If you have an irritated nerve in your lumbar spine, for example, this can present as pain anywhere along the nerve branch that exits the lumbar spine and travels down into the other structures it supplies (e.g., hip, ankle, foot, knee, etc.). So if you had a problem in your lower back before you had a hip replacement, the hip pain could be stemming from an irritated nerve in the back. A hip replacement isn’t going to address the irritated nerve, and, therefore, pain will continue following hip replacement.

Risk of Hip Dislocation

Hip dislocation is another risk you need to be aware of, and if you’ve had a fusion in your lower back, you need to be particularly cautious of this hip replacement complication. And the more levels you’ve had fused, the more risky a hip dislocation following hip replacement becomes. An artificial hip simply cannot function precisely like a hip is supposed to. Even if it’s off by just a millimeter, this can significantly disrupt hip alignment and increase the risk of hip dislocations. In addition, because the hip and knee work in unison, hip alignment issues can disrupt knee alignment as well.

Chromosome Damage from Wear Debris

Chromosomes live in the DNA and provide instructions for our cells. Chemicals or toxins can damage these chromosomes, creating bad instructions for the cells or potentially even cancer. Metal concentrations in the blood, common from wear debris from hip replacement devices, have been shown to damage chromosomes, resulting in genetic defects., and there was a direct correlation between the amount of metal concentrations and the extent of damage to the chromosomes.

Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack

One study found that hip replacement increased the risk of stroke by a staggering 400–500%. Another found that heart attack risk is more than 25 times greater following hip replacement.

Continued Risk of Falls

While many believe that a hip replacement will reduce the risk of falls, a recent study found otherwise. Within one year after their hip replacement, 30% of study participants had fallen at least once. This was only a very minimal, and really insignificant, improvement over the 31.4% who had experienced a fall prior to hip replacement.

Turns out you may be getting much more than just a new joint when you get a hip replacement, but what you’re getting may not be a bonus. Unfortunately it’s often quite the opposite—hip replacement complications include damaging wear particles, continuing pain and risk of falls, a greater risk of stroke and heart attack, and much more. At the very least, if you have chronic hip pain, make sure you see an interventional orthopedic physician before you see a surgeon to make sure your hip pain really is due to a hip problem.