As with any operation, hip replacement surgery has risks as well as benefits. Most people who have a hip replacement do not have serious complications.
After having a hip replacement, contact your doctor if you get:
- hot, reddened, hard or painful areas in your leg in the first few weeks after your operation. Although this may just be bruising from the surgery, it could mean you have DVT (deep vein thrombosis) – a blood clot in the leg.
- chest pains or breathlessness. Although it's very rare, you could have a blood clot in your lung (pulmonary embolism) which needs urgent treatment.
To reduce your risk of blood clots, you'll be given blood-thinning medicine and compression stockings.
Moving your legs as soon as you can after the operation is one of the best ways to prevent blood clots. Check with a physiotherapist or nurse what you should be doing.
Loosening of the joint
This happens in up to 5 in 100 hip replacements. It can cause pain and a feeling that the joint is unstable.
Joint loosening can be caused by the shaft of the implant becoming loose in the hollow of the thigh bone (femur), or due to thinning of the bone around the implant.
It can happen at any time, but it usually happens 10 to 15 years after the original surgery was done.
Another operation (revision surgery) may be necessary, although this cannot be done in all patients.
In a small number of cases the hip joint can come out of its socket. This is most likely to happen in the first few months after surgery when the hip is still healing.
Further surgery is usually needed to put the joint back into place.
Altered leg length
The leg that was operated on may be shorter or longer than the other leg. People can adjust to this, but sometimes a raised shoe may be needed.
Hip replacement surgery is done in an ultra-clean operating theatre and antibiotics are given during the operation.
But in less than 1 in every 100 operations, an infection may still happen. You'll be given antibiotics.
Very rarely, the hip replacement may need to be "washed out" or a new replacement may be used.
It's normal for the wound to be slightly red and warm to touch while healing. However, if you feel unwell, the pain is getting worse or the wound starts to leak fluid, contact a GP straightaway or call 111.
How long will a replacement hip last?
Wear and tear through everyday use means your replacement hip might not last forever. Some people will need further surgery.
According to the National Joint Registry (NJR), only 7 in 100 hip replacements may need further surgery after 13 years. However, this depends on the type of implant and how it was fixed in place.
Most hip replacements last much longer than 13 years.
Find more information on how long hip implants last from the NJR website.
Page last reviewed: 23 December 2019
Next review due: 23 December 2022