Total Hip Joint Replacement: The Basics You Need to Know

Hip Joint Replacements are one of the most successful procedures available today. Hundreds of thousands Americans will have a hip replacement just this year. The most common reasons you might need a hip replacement are arthritis (either Osteoarthritis from “wear and tear” or chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis) or an injury to the hip that triggers arthritis or causes bone damage. “We encourage patients to try medications, injections or physical therapy before moving to surgery,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist Eric Heimberger, MD. “People from age 50 can benefit from the total joint replacement if their hip pain limits everyday activities (as simple as walking), if pain continues after resting or at night, and if the non-surgical efforts don’t bring relief.”


The hip is basically a “ball and joint.” The top of the leg (femur) has a ball on top and fits into a cup of the pelvis. Ligaments hold the pieces together. Cartilage provides some cushioning, while Synovia tissue secretes liquid to lubricate the movement. The joint, along with the knees, are responsible for bearing much of the body’s weight during walking, standing and lifting. So, it’s no surprise that these are the most likely joints to wear out and need replacement.


During the surgery, your Orthopedic Specialist will:

  • Disconnect the leg from the pelvis
  • Remove the top of the femur and drill a hole in the bone.
  • Insert a metal stem with a ball on the end. This can be cemented, although new materials will allow the bone to grow into the stem without cement.
  • Clean out the cup area of the hip.
  • Insert a metal shell with a plastic or ceramic cup for smooth movement.
  • Fit the leg and pelvis back together.


Your Orthopedic team will have you up, walking and taking a few stairs within 24 hours of your surgery. Your hospital stay is generally 1 or 2 nights.

Pain management will help you recover with minimal distraction.

Physical therapists will start you with a walker, then a cane and finally walking on your own.

In a few weeks you can return to walks and driving. A bit longer and you can be back to activities you participated in before hip joint replacement, such as biking, dancing, golf and swimming.

Make sure you’ve had your house set up for your homecoming


  • With today’s materials and normal wear, you can expect our hip to last 15-20 years.
  • You may feel some numbness around your incision.
  • At first, it may feel difficult to bend.
  • Both of the above issues will decrease over time.

You may also find these articles helpful:

4 Pointers to Make the Most of Your Hip Joint Replacement

Air Travel, Your Metal Joint Replacement and the TSA

Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.

Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, The Arthritis Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons