Risks of a Hip Replacement

Risks and Complications of a Total Hip Replacement

  • As with any major surgery there are potential risks involved. The decision to proceed with the surgery is made because the advantages of surgery outweigh the potential disadvantages
  • It is important that you are informed of these risks before the surgery takes place

Complications can be medical (general) or specific to the hip

Medical complications include those of the anesthetic and your general well being. Almost any medical condition can occur so this list is not complete. Complications include

    • Allergic reactions to medications
    • Blood loss requiring transfusion with its low risk of disease transmission
    • Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, pneumonia, bladder infections
    • Complications from nerve blocks such as infection or nerve damage
    • Serious medical problems can lead to ongoing health concerns, prolonged hospitalization or rarely death

Specific complications

  • Infections
    Infection can occur with any operation. In the hip this can be superficial or deep. Infection rates are approximately 1%. If it occurs, it can be treated with antibiotics but may require further surgery. Very rarely your hip may need to be removed to eradicate infection.
  • Dislocation
    This means the hip comes out of its socket. Precautions need to be taken with your new hip forever. If a dislocation occurs it needs to be put back into place with an anesthetic. Rarely this becomes a recurrent problem needing further surgery.
  • Fractures (break) of the femur (thigh bone) or pelvis (hipbone)
    This is also rare but can occur during or after surgery. This may prolong your recovery or require further surgery.
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels
    Also rare but can lead to weakness and loss of sensation in part of the leg. Damage to blood vessels may require further surgery if bleeding is ongoing.
  • Blood clots (Deep Venous Thrombosis)
    These can form in the calf muscles and can travel to the lung (Pulmonary embolism). These can occasionally be serious and even life threatening. If you get calf pain or shortness of breath at any stage, you should notify your surgeon.
  • Wound irritation
    Your scar can be sensitive or have a surrounding area of numbness. This normally decreases over time and does not lead to any problems with your new joint.
  • Leg length inequality
    It is very difficult to make the leg exactly the same length as the other one. Occasionally the leg is deliberately lengthened to make the hip stable during surgery. There are some occasions when it is simply not possible to match the leg lengths. All leg length inequalities can be treated by a simple shoe raise on the shorter side.
  • Wear
    All joints eventually wear out. The more active you are the quicker this will occur. In general 80-90% of hip replacements survive 15years.
  • Failure to relieve pain
    Very rare but may occur, especially if some pain is coming from other areas such as the spine.
  • Unsightly or thickened scar
  • Pressure or bed sores
  • Limp due to muscle weakness

Discuss your concerns thoroughly with your orthopaedic surgeon prior to surgery.

Although every effort has been made to explain the complications there will be complications that may not have been specifically mentioned.  A good knowledge of this operation will make the stress of undertaking the operation easier for you to bear.

The decision to proceed with the surgery is made because the advantages of surgery outweigh the potential disadvantages.  It is important that you are informed of these risks before the surgery.
You must not proceed until you are confident that you understand this procedure, particularly the complications.


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