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Revision Hip Replacement


Revision hip replacement means that part or all of your previous hip replacement needs to be revised. This operation varies from very minor adjustments to massive operations, replacing significant amounts of bone, and is hence difficult to describe in full.

Total hip replacement (THR) replaces all or part of the hip joint with an artificial device (prosthesis) with a plastic liner in between to restore joint movement.
Revision Hip Replacement

Why does a hip need to be revised?

  • Pain is the primary reason for revision. Usually, the cause is clear, but not always. Hips without an obvious cause for pain, in general, do not do as well after surgery.
  • Plastic (polyethylene) wear. This is one of the easier revisions where only the plastic insert is changed.
  • Dislocation (instability) means the hip is popping out of place.
  • Loosening of either the femoral or acetabular component. This usually presents as pain, but may be asymptomatic. For this reason, you must have your joint followed up for life as there can be changes on X-ray that indicate that the hip should be revised despite having no symptoms.
  • Infection usually presents as pain, but may present as an acute fever or a general feeling of being unwell.
  • Osteolysis (bone loss) can occur due to particles being released into the hip joint that result in bone being destroyed.
  • Pain from hardware e.g., cables or wires causing irritation.


  • Your surgeon will send you for routine blood tests to rule out infection, CT scan to look closer at the anatomy, and bone scans to help  determine if a component is loose.
  • X-rays are essential.
  • Aspiration of the joint is occasionally done to diagnose or rule out infection.
  • You will be asked to undertake a general medical check-up with a physician.
  • You should have any other medical, surgical or dental problems attended to prior to your surgery.
  • Make arrangements for help around the house prior to surgery.
  • Cease aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications 10 days prior to surgery as they can cause bleeding.
  • Cease any naturopathic or herbal medications 10 days before surgery.
  • Stop smoking as long as possible prior to surgery.

Day of your surgery

  • You will be admitted to the hospital usually on the day of your surgery.
  • Further tests may be required on admission.
  • You will meet the nurses and answer some questions for the hospital records.
  • You will meet your anaesthetist, who will ask you a few questions.
  • You will be given hospital clothes to change into and have a shower prior to surgery.
  • The operation site will be shaved and cleaned.
  • Approximately 30 minutes prior to surgery, you will be transferred to the operating room.

Surgical procedure

Hip revision will be explained to you prior to surgery including what is likely to be done, but in revision surgery, the unexpected can happen, so good planning can prevent most potential problems. The surgery is often, but not always, more extensive than your previous surgery and the complications similar, but more frequent than the first operation.

The surgery varies from a simple liner exchange to changing one or all of the components. Extra bone (cadaver bone) may need to be used to make up for any bone loss.

Postoperative course

  • You will wake up in the recovery room with a number of monitors to record your vitals. (blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation, temperature, etc.) You will have a dressing on your hip and drains coming out of your wound.
  • Post-operative X-rays will be taken in recovery.
  • Once you are stable and awake, you will be taken back to the ward.
  • You will have one or two IVs in your arm for fluid and pain relief. This will be explained to you by your anaesthetist.
  • On the day following surgery, your drains will usually be removed and you will be allowed to sit out of bed or walk depending on your surgeon’s preference.
  • Pain is normal, but if you are in a lot of pain, inform your nurse.
  • You will be able to put all your weight on your hip and your physical therapist will help you with the post-op hip exercises.
  • You will be discharged home or to a rehabilitation hospital approximately 5-7 days after surgery, depending on your pain and help at home.
  • Sutures are usually dissolvable, but if not are removed at about 10 days.
  • A postoperative visit will be arranged prior to your discharge.
  • You will be instructed to walk with crutches for two weeks following surgery and cane from then on until 6 weeks post-op.

Special precautions

Remember, this is an artificial hip and must be treated with care.


  • You should sleep with a pillow between your legs for 6 weeks. Avoid crossing your legs and bending your hip past a right angle.
  • Avoid low chairs.
  • Avoid bending over to pick things up. Grabbers are helpful as are shoe horns or slip on shoes.
  • Elevated toilet seats are helpful.
  • You may shower once the wound has healed.
  • You can apply vitamin E or moisturising cream on the wound once the wound has healed.
  • If you have increasing redness or swelling in the wound or temperatures over 100.5 degrees, you should call your doctor.
  • If you are having any procedures, such as dental work or any other surgery, you should take antibiotics before and after, to prevent infection in your new prosthesis. Consult your surgeon for details.
  • Your hip replacement may go off in a metal detector at the airport.

Risks and complications

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 anaesthetic 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 hospitalisation, or rarely death

Specific complications to the hip include:

  • Infection: Infection can occur with any operation. In the hip, this can be superficial or deep. Infection rates vary.  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.
  • Blood clots (deep venous thrombosis): These can form in the calf muscles and  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.
  • 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 anaesthetic. Rarely, this becomes a recurrent problem, needing further surgery.
  • Fractures (break) of the femur (thighbone) or pelvis (hip bone): 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.
  • 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 15 years.
  • 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 bedsores
  • Limp due to muscle weakness

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

FAORTHA FRACSInternational Society for Hip Arthroscopy


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