Q&A Topic: Hip Replacement Surgery for Women
David J. Yasgur, MD, FAAOS
Q. What considerations are unique for women when it comes to osteoarthritis of the hip?
A. As they age, women face special challenges when it comes to maintaining the health of their bones and joints. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis, known as “wear and tear arthritis,” especially after age 50. In fact, a woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of developing breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer.
Q. How can women reduce hip pain or lower their risk of chronic pain down the road?
A. Several lifestyle changes can lower a woman’s risk for osteoarthritis. Not surprisingly, the first step for many women is weight loss. According to the Arthritis Foundation, the hip bears six pounds of pressure for every pound gained. So, even an extra 10 pounds can place significant stress on your hip joint. To maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy unsaturated fats, such as nuts, fish, or olive oil. And if you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about ways to quit, as smoking may cause a faster breakdown of cartilage in the joints.
To manage chronic hip pain, try low-impact exercises such as swimming, stretching, and resistance training, followed by a warm bath or shower. Or, to reduce swelling and discomfort, try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or pain relievers. You can also apply cold packs to the hip several times a day, for fifteen minutes at a time.
Q. How do you diagnose someone who needs a hip replacement?
A. If your pain becomes debilitating, you may be a candidate for hip replacement. In diagnosing patients, we take a thorough patient history, looking for symptoms such as chronic soreness in the hip or groin (localized between the hip and knee) during and after exercise, stiffness that interferes with daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs, or putting on shoes and socks, or pain that interrupts sleep. We then conduct a physical examination and X-rays and/or an MRI to determine if a patient qualifies for hip replacement.
Q. When is hip surgery the answer and how is it different today than it was 10 years ago?
A. Modern hip replacement takes advantage of advanced technology and customized computer-aided fitting that increases a patient’s range of motion more than ever before. My patients are surprised that after surgery they can resume activities they once enjoyed, without pain. At Northern Westchester Hospital, we also use an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocol which streamlines the healing process with particular impact on post-operative pain. We give oral non-narcotic medicine, nerve blocks to directly target pain in the surgical site, and very long-acting local aesthetic that works up to 24 hours after surgery, when post-op patients generally experience the most discomfort.
Q. After receiving a new hip, how quickly can a woman get back to her life?
A. Most of my patients are up and walking the day of surgery, and go home after an overnight stay. Patients typically move from their walker to a cane within the first week, and then move off the cane within 2 to 3 weeks. Many patients then look forward to resuming athletic activities—and with good reason. Exercise can boost cardiovascular health, relieve stress, and improve bone growth. Generally speaking, after 3 to 6 months women can resume most low-impact activities, such as swimming, cycling, low-impact aerobics, hiking, and yoga. Ultimately, women should talk to their doctors about their fitness plans and also listen to their bodies—if an activity doesn’t feel right, then you may need more time to recover.
Learn More About Dr. Yasgur
Director of Quality and Outcomes
Orthopedic and Spine Institute
Northern Westchester Hospital
Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.
Read Past Topics from Dr. Yasgur:
Chronic Knee Pain and Knee Replacement
Hip Replacement Surgeries
Patient-Specific Instruments for Total Knee Replacement
Management of ACL Tears
Partial Knee Replacement With a Mobile Bearing Prosthesis