Hip Replacement Surgery And Osteolysis

If you have pain and weakness across your hip, then your doctor may prescribe painkillers and physical therapy to help reduce discomfort and rebuild strength. If this does not work, then you may need to undergo a hip replacement surgery. This surgery is an invasive and a major orthopedic operation. However, hip replacement is somewhat common with over 300,000 surgeries completed each year. You can expect your new hip to last 15 to 20 years. However, you may experience a complication some time after surgery called osteolysis. Keep reading to understand this complication and to find out how it can be avoided.

What Is Osteolysis?

During a hip replacement surgery, the hip joint is replaced. The femur is released from the hip socket first and the ball joint that sits on top of the leg bone is sawed off. A replacement ball with a stem on the end is glued onto the end of the femur. Since the femur bone is hollow, the stem is generally inserted into the bone and cemented in place. Screws and pins also may assist with securing the implant. The hip socket is hollowed out a small amount and fitted with a cup. This cup is also cemented in place. The femur ball is then fitted into the cup to complete the operation.

The cements used during the surgical process allow the bone and metal to fuse together. However, osteolysis causes the implant parts to loosen from the bone. This often happens along the hip joint due to wear. Specifically, small pieces of metal will release from the implants. The immune system will see these particles and the implants as foreign materials that need to be removed. To get rid of the implant, healthy bone tissues around the implant socket and ball are broken down. The artificial hip joint loosens in the process. This causes weakness, pain, and the need for a revision surgery where the replacement hip is rebuilt.

How To Prevent Osteolysis?

One of the easiest ways to make sure that osteolysis does not occur is to work with your orthopedic surgeon to make sure that the right materials are used to create the artificial hip. This will cut down on wear and keep your immune system from attacking the joint. Metal on metal implants are likely to create debris in the body that can trigger osteolysis. This is less likely to occur if you pick a metal and polyethylene implant. While some of these devices can wear down over time, some medical manufacturers have created plastic and metal hip joints that wear down about 92% less than typical or older replacement options. Make sure your surgeon is using one of these advanced hips to reduce wear concerns.

You also have the option of an all-ceramic or ceramic and polyethylene device. These implants are not used as readily as metal ones since the ceramic can crack during the surgery or much later on after the procedure is complete. However, the ceramic will not wear as quickly as metal will.

You will want to reduce general wear on your hip after surgery to keep osteolysis at bay. Try to avoid activities that place stress on your hip. For example, you probably should not run on a regular basis. Instead of running, consider low impact exercises like biking and swimming. These types of things, as well as aerobic exercise, will help to build your leg muscles. This will help to add strength and support to your hip without stressing the implant. 

If you need to undergo a hip replacement surgery, then you will likely have a successful operation with an artificial hip that will last a long time. Some complications can occur though, like osteolysis. Make sure to speak with your surgeon about this complication before your operation so you can understand how to best avoid it.