Hip Arthritis - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is hip arthritis diagnosed?

To confirm you have hip osteoarthritis, your doctor will examine your medical history and perform a physical examination to check your hip function and range of motion.

An X-ray may also be recommended to identify common features such as narrowing of the joint or the presence of spurs at the joint.

How is hip arthritis treated?

There are non-surgical treatments and surgical treatments for hip arthritis.

Non-surgical treatments

Non-surgical treatments for hip arthritis include:

  • Heat to relax and loosen tissues and stimulate blood flow to the area
  • Ice to minimise inflammation
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Rest to allow the acute inflammation to subside

Surgical treatments

Surgical treatments for hip arthritis include hip replacement surgery and hip resurfacing.

Hip replacement surgery

This may be considered in the following situations:

  • If arthritis limits your everyday activities such as walking and bending
  • If pain continues while resting
  • If stiffness limits your ability to move or lift your leg
  • If you have little pain relief from NSAIDs

In hip replacement surgery, the doctor removes the damaged or worn out part of the hip joint. This involves replacing the head of the thigh bone (femur) and the hip socket (acetabulum) with an artificial joint (prosthesis) made of metal or ceramic.

A surgeon will make an incision over the front, back or side of the hip, remove damaged bone and cartilage, and implant the artificial joint.

After the procedure you will usually need to stay in the hospital for a few days. You will be prescribed medication for the pain and encouraged to move your joint as soon as possible, with supervision. You will be given advice on proper care of the incision site before discharge, and the stitches will be removed in a follow-up visit. A physiotherapy routine will help you regain muscle strength and range of motion.

Hip resurfacing

Some patients may be more suited for a procedure known as hip resurfacing, which retains most of the original bone with only the joint surface being shaved and capped.

Hip resurfacing has several advantages, such as being able to bear weight and function more naturally. There is also a lesser chance of the joint dislocating, which may occur with a full hip replacement.

Both hip replacement surgery and hip resurfacing have different risks and benefits. Your doctor will be able to advise which procedure is best suited to your age, the type and extent of your hip arthritis, and your lifestyle, while taking into account your medical history.

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