Product News and Recalls

Advice about timing for hip replacement

In a column in the Sioux City Journal out of Iowa, Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., answers a letter-writer’s question about the best timing for hip replacement surgery.

The letter-writer, who is 58, asks whether surgery is advisable now or later in life.

Komaroff writes that hip replacement surgery, in which damaged hip bone and cartilage are removed and replaced with artificial components, can greatly improve the function of the hip and substantially relieve pain.

But timing the surgery can be tricky, Komaroff writes, because of the artificial joints’ limited life span. Most last 15 to 20 years with normal activity, which is why people under 60 are encouraged to delay the procedure if possible. The younger the patient is during the initial hip replacement, the more likely he or she will eventually require more surgery.

Some types of hip replacement have an even shorter projected life span. All-metal artificial hips manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics were recalled in 2010 after a number of studies found that nearly half the patients who received them needed a replacement within six years.

The DePuy Orthpaedics hips also generated widespread reports of toxic metal debris breaking off and getting into patients’ bodies.

Komaroff cautions that waiting too long for hip replacement is also a bad idea, because it may lessen pain relief and functional improvements from a hip replacement, and that hip replacement should take place when X-rays show advanced arthritis or other hip joint damage. Age and the extent of the disability are also important factors, Komaroff writes.

He advises you to consider hip replacement if one or more of the following conditions apply:

  • You can’t complete normal daily tasks without help.
  • You have significant pain on a daily basis.
  • You experience pain that prevents them from walking or bending over.
  • The pain doesn’t stop when you rest.
  • The pain keeps you awake at night.
  • Non-surgical treatments, including medicine and physical therapy, haven’t given you sufficient relief.
  • According to your doctor, less complicated surgical procedures are unlikely to help.
  • You have trouble lifting your leg.
  • You suffer severe side effects from medications for your joint symptoms.

You should consult with a doctor if you have any ongoing symptoms or health concerns. If you have significant injuries concerning DePuy hips, you should also consult with a lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

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