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Hip replacement is a procedure in which the surgeon removes damaged or diseased parts of the patient's hip joint and replaces them with new artificial parts. The operation itself is called hip arthroplasty. Arthroplasty comes from two Greek words, arthros or joint and plassein, "to form or shape." It is a type of surgery done to replace or reconstruct a joint. The artificial joint itself is called a prosthesis. Hip prostheses may be made of metal, ceramic, plastic, or various combinations of these materials.
Hip arthroplasty has two primary purposes: pain relief and improved functioning of the hip joint.
Because total hip replacement (THR) is considered major surgery, with all the usual risks involved, it is usually not considered as a treatment option until the patient's pain cannot be managed any longer by more conservative nonsurgical treatment. These alternatives are described below.
Joint pain interferes with a person's quality of life in many ways. If the pain in the hip area is chronic, affecting the person even when he or she is resting, it can lead to depression and other emotional disturbances. Severe chronic pain also strains a person's relationships with family members, employer, and workplace colleagues; it is now recognized to be as the most common underlying cause of suicide in the United States.
In most cases, however, pain in the hip joint is a gradual development. Typically, the patient finds that their hip begins to ache when they are exercising vigorously, walking, or standing for a long time. They may cut back on athletic activities only to find that they are starting to limp when they walk and that sitting down is also becoming uncomfortable. Many patients then begin to have trouble driving, sitting through a concert or movie, or working at a desk without pain. It is usually at this point, when a person's ability to live independently is threatened, that he or she considers hip replacement surgery.
Author Info: Rebecca Frey Ph.D., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery, 2004
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