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Hip Replacement

What Are The Risks And Complications?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 11:21

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

As with all major surgical procedures, complications can occur. Some of the most common complications following hip replacement are:

Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT can occur after any operation, but is more likely to occur following surgery on the hip, pelvis, or knee. Thrombosis occurs when the blood in a large blood vessel of the leg or pelvis forms blood clots; in DVT it is within the veins.

DVT may cause the leg to:

  • Swell
  • Become warm to the touch
  • Become painful

Surgeons take DVT prevention very seriously. Some of the commonly used preventative measures include:

  • Encouraging activity as soon as possible
  • Pressure stockings to keep the blood in the legs moving
  • Medications that thin the blood and prevent blood clots from forming

For further information about deep vein thrombosis, go to Deep Vein Thrombosis.


The chance of getting an infection following hip replacement is less than 1%. Superficial infections involving the surgical incision are easily treated with antibiotics. More serious infections can result from bacteria invading the bone in the presence of metal and cement.

Infection can be serious enough to cause the artificial implant to loosen. Some infections may show up very early, even before the discharge from the hospital. Others may not become apparent for months, or even years, after the operation.

Infection can spread into the artificial joint from other infected areas.

Your surgeon may want to make sure that you take antibiotics when you have surgical procedures on your bladder and colon to reduce the risk of spreading germs to the joint. This precaution includes any dental work as mentioned earlier.


Dislocation has a low incidence of approximately 3%. This can be the result of the individual not being compliant with postoperative restrictions. Dislocation can also result from muscle imbalance and tightness around the hip joint.


In the cemented hip, a major reason why artificial joints eventually fail is the result of loosening where the metal or cement meets the bone. In the case of the non-cemented joint, the bone itself fails to attach itself properly to the surface of the implant. In either case, loosening of the joint implants will often lead to a total hip revision.

Since there are no ligaments to hold the components of the new hip together, a person must be careful in the first few weeks following surgery to avoid positions that could dislocate the hip. However, with time, the body will make enough scar tissue to stabilize the new hip replacement

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