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Hip replacement alternatives

A reader worries about available alternatives before proceeding with a hip replacement.

QUESTION: 

My aunt is nearly 90, in good health and active. She recently had some pain and discomfort, in a hip. She was surprised to discover, on visiting a specialist, that a tendon has worn out and she needs a hip replacement. I am wondering if there are other, milder alternatives to try first. Also is there any age limit for this operation, which is a major one with a long convalescence?

ANSWER:

Hip replacement surgery (hip arthroplasty) is generally performed for severe arthritis causing pain and reduced mobility. The decision to go ahead is based on level of disability, medical fitness for surgery and the wishes of the patient and family.  Age alone is not a barrier, and many 90-year-olds have had this procedure successfully. The operation is now well established and generally very safe. The hospitalisation period is around five to eight days (possibly a bit longer in this age group) with a further period in a  rehabilitation facility. Full recovery takes around eight weeks. Improvement in pain and function can be dramatic. Alternatives to hip replacement include oral analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication, or a steroid injection into the hip joint, all of which have limitations and potential side effects. Your aunt may appreciate your presence during discussions with the orthopaedic surgeon.

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