Many people have relatives or friends who have undergone a hip replacement. This is a successful treatment for chronic hip joint pain, such as that caused by osteoarthritis, where the internal cartilage lining of the joint has been worn away.
However, no replacement joint so far developed is as good as a well functioning natural joint and all replacement joints have a risk of wearing out, especially in younger and active patients, who may then need a replacement of the replacement.
Replacement of a replacement joint is termed “revision” surgery and is more technically demanding for the surgeon and more risky for the patient than initial replacement of a natural hip. Hence modern philosophy in the management of hip problems is to identify symptoms early, to see if anything can be done repair the joint and/or prevent further damage in order to relieve symptoms and slow down the progress to arthritis, preserving the patient’s natural joint for as long as possible.
Key-hole surgery (arthroscopy) to repair and reshape the inside of the hip joint, and bone realignment (osteotomy) to change the orientation of the socket or thigh bone are the main techniques used to protect and preserve the natural hip joint.