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What are the Risks of Hip Replacement Surgery?

The overall benefit of surgery should far outweigh the risks, but it is important that you understand these in detail so you can make an informed decision.

  • Fracture of the thigh bone or the pelvis may occur during surgery or later such as after a fall. If you have osteoporosis you are more at risk of this happening. We are prepared to deal with fractures occurring during surgery. Fractures around a hip replacement often require extensive intervention including the use of revision hip replacement components.

  • Leg length difference. This also occurs naturally, but can be more noticeable after surgery especially if pronounced. We always aim to get the length of the leg right, but this is not always possible. If the difference is still bothering you after 6 months you can use a shoe raise on the shorter side to balance the legs. 

  • Dislocation can happen if the hip is put in an extreme position especially within the first 6 weeks. This is due to the fact that the artificial hip ball is much smaller than the original one. In most cases the hip can be reduced under anaesthetic and you can continue with your rehabilitation. In a small number of cases revision surgery may become necessary.

  • It is rare that the pain persists following surgery and may indicate that there is another source or the hip replacement is coming loose.

  • Infection is a major complication which may only need a course of antibiotics, but in a worst case scenario your new hip may have to be removed to clear the infection. In very severe cases it may not be possible to re-implant a new hip again after infection. Overall risk is around 1%.

  • Significant bleeding is uncommon, but should it occur and does not stop you may need to return to the operating theatre to explore and stop the bleeding. A blood transfusion may also become necessary.

  • Nerve injury with subsequent numbness or loss of power can occur if a nerve is stretched or severed during the surgery. 

  • Blood clots can form in the deep veins of the leg which block the blood flow back to the heart causing pain and swelling of the leg. On occasions a clot can break free, travel to the lungs and cause a blockage of the arteries of the lung. Rarely, this can be lethal. We will give you blood thinners to reduce this risk and ask you to exercise your calf muscles regularly.

  • A sensitive scar usually improves over time, but you may need to regularly massage it desensitise the area.

  • Delayed wound healing is more common in smokers, diabetics, overweight people and patients on steroids.

  • Anaesthetic complications are rare but serious allergic reactions or a heart attack may be fatal. You may feel sick or drop your blood pressure after surgery but these usually settle quickly.

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