Over 90,000 patients receive hip replacement surgery each year in the UK alone. There are many different types of hip replacement available and the decision on which one is best for you, will be decided by your surgeon depending on your age, weight, activity level and degree of bone damage.
Traditionally, those having a hip replacement were mostly over the age of 65. However, according to a report in Arthritis and Rheumatism, numbers of younger patients having surgery on their knees and hips are increasing, largely due to rising levels of obesity, which puts strain on the joints.
How Does the Hip Joint Work?
The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. It allows movement to occur between the thigh bone or femur and the hip bone or pelvis. The pelvis contains a bowl shaped socket called the acetabulum. The head of the femur or femoral head, is shaped like a ball and it fits into the acetabulum, forming a ball and socket joint.
The outer surface of the femoral head and the inside of the acetabulum are covered with cartilage which allows the two surfaces to slide easily during movement of the leg. Over time, the cartilage can start to crack and wear away. When this happens, the bones making up the hip joint rub together causing stiffness and pain.
Hip replacement surgery involves replacing the head of the femur and the acetabulum with man made components called a prosthesis.
Hip Replacement Surgery in the UK
Hip replacement surgery in the UK has a good reputation and on average, nine out of ten patients report noticeable improvement in both mobility and reduced pain after receiving the treatment. Of the remaining 10%, most are able to improve their symptoms by having a further operation.
If you’re recognised as a suitable candidate for surgery, you’ll be able to receive the treatment on the NHS, though extended waiting times can motivate patients to explore the option of private treatment, which costs approximately £9,000 to £15,000.
Types of Hip Replacement Surgery Available
There are two main types of hip replacement available to patients within the UK. These are:
Total Hip Replacement
- A total hip replacement involves removal of part of the thigh bone and ‘ball’ section of the joint. A new, prosthetic ball is then fixed to the remaining bone in the leg. The socket in the pelvis is roughened, in order to accept the artificial socket component, which is designed to join with the ball component.
- In some instances, the artificial components will be adhered to the bone using acrylic cement. However, in certain instances, particularly if the patient is younger, cement is not used, and instead, natural bone growth is encouraged, which will eventually form a natural bond.
- Different types of material are used. These include: a metal ball or ceramic ball, both with plastic socket, or ceramic ball with ceramic socket. Occasionally, a metal ball and metal socket combination is used, though this is only suitable for younger, more physically active patients.
- The type of artificial joint (prosthesis) you receive will depend on your age, weight, activity level, arthritic damage and other lifestyle factors. The most common are the Charnley and the Exeter hips.
- Rather than removing the top section of the thigh bone, a metal cap is inserted over it. The socket section of the joint is also covered with metal. With this procedure, there’s a reduced risk of dislocation, and enables patients to enjoy better mobility afterwards. However, complication rates are higher, and this treatment is not suitable for anyone suffering with osteoporosis.
- There is an increased likelihood of requiring repeat surgery with hip resurfacing, and the metal particles have been known to cause inflammation in the area.
Latest Developments in Hip Replacement Surgery
In recent years, there have been many advancements in hip replacement surgery and some exciting developments. One of the more recent pioneering techniques is combined simultaneous hip replacement with stem-cell therapy, in which the patient’s own stem cells are used to replace damaged sections of the hip bone. Stem cells are our body’s natural “building blocks”, so are naturally suited to the task of repairing damage.
There are other pioneering techniques also now being offered in the UK, including “mini-hip replacements” and using computers to create prostheses based on the patient’s unique bone shape.
In another development, CT scans are used to create a 3D model of the patient’s hip prior to surgery. The surgeon then uses a robotic arm to help guide him, enabling him to achieve a high degree of precision and accuracy in removing the damaged bone and placing the new implant in position.
Having a Hip Replacement in the UK
High success rates, excellent surgeons and cutting-edge treatment make the UK a particularly good place to have hip replacement surgery. If you need surgery and want to find out more about the options and types of hip replacement available to you, speak to your GP or surgeon, who will be able to provide you with further information.
The ultimate decision regarding which method and which prosthesis is best for you, will come after a detailed consultation with your surgeon who will make the decision based on your individual circumstances and needs.
If you would like to read more about the types of hip replacement surgery, the latest developments and where you can receive cutting edge treatment, read our new guide:
Finally for a comprehensive guide to the cost of hip replacement surgery in the UK, follow the link to our recent article.