Reducing the risk of dislocation after a hip replacement

Joint Health

by William K. Montgomery, MD

Aug 22, 2023

When you undergo hip replacement surgery to help you regain movement and relieve pain, you want to do everything you can to protect your new hip. While most people who have an elective hip replacement go on to have a healthy and active life, a small percentage of first-time surgery patients (approximately 3-4%) experience hip dislocation.

A hip dislocation happens when the ball at the top of the leg bone is displaced from the hip socket. Fortunately, with advances in hip replacement procedures, orthopedic surgeons have more options today to tailor treatments to each person and reduce the chances of hip dislocation after surgery.

As you consider hip replacement, talk with your doctor about the best ways to protect your hip. Here are a few areas for you to take into consideration.

Choose a hip replacement specialist

The surgeon you choose for your hip replacement can make a substantial difference. Find a surgeon who specializes in replacement surgery and performs a high volume of this type of procedure. Some orthopedic practices have a surgeon who only focuses on hip and knee replacements.

Specifically, look for the term “adult reconstruction” in your search. A surgeon who specializes in adult reconstruction has additional fellowship training beyond general orthopedic care. These physicians offer advanced procedures and give you access to personalized options for your surgery.

Consider the anterior approach to hip replacement

The anterior approach to hip replacement is an option for almost 90% of patients, so ask your doctor if it’s the right choice for you. While traditional hip replacement surgery, called the posterior approach, uses an incision on the back of the hip, an anterior hip replacement reaches the hip through the front of the body.

With the posterior approach, the muscle in the hip that works as a stabilizing safety net for the joint must be detached. If it doesn’t heal correctly, it can increase the risk of dislocation. Using the anterior approach, surgeons can separate the tissue along its natural planes, so there’s no need to detach it and add to the healing process.

Studies have shown that the anterior approach to hip replacement not only helps protect against hip dislocation but also speeds up recovery. As the anterior approach uses a specialized table and equipment, you’ll want to look for a location that has invested in this technology. Many Baylor Scott & White medical centers offer this option.

Technological advancements in hip replacement surgery

Along with the anterior approach to hip replacements, your surgeon may also offer other modern improvements in orthopedic techniques that can further decrease the chance of hip dislocation.

For example, some people are naturally loose-jointed, which means that their soft tissue is hypermobile. This puts them at a higher risk of hip dislocation after hip replacement surgery. Surgeons have new implant options, such as dual mobility construct, which allows for two poles of motion within the joint. In the past, this type of implant has only been used in revision hip replacement surgery. However, it’s now offered to patients who have a higher chance of dislocation during an initial hip replacement procedure.

Follow your personalized plan to avoid hip dislocation

After your surgery, the main thing you can do to protect against hip dislocation is listen to your doctor’s advice for your specific procedure and give your hip time to heal. Most of the time, hip dislocation happens when the hip is placed in an extreme range of motion. Following the hip precautions given to you by your team helps prevent these types of movements.

In the end, if you’re worried about the risk of hip dislocation, talk to your surgeon to find out how you can personalize your care—from choosing the right procedure to planning your recovery. An individualized discussion between you and your surgeon about your options is one of the best ways to prevent hip dislocation and keep you enjoying an active life.

Wondering if you should see a specialist about your hip pain? Take our assessment.

About the Author

Dr. Montgomery is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in adult reconstruction. He is the medical director of orthopedics at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – McKinney.

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