What Are the Risks of Complete Hip Replacement?

Every surgical intervention carries an inherent risk, and several complications may arise following complete hip replacement. Since general or regional anesthesia are used to sedate patients for the procedure, the usual risks involve the possibility of a stroke, heart arrhythmias, pneumonia, and liver toxicity.

It should be noted that hip replacements are some of the most successful surgeries performed with high rates of success, and while complications are uncommon, they can invariably occur. Individuals that suffer from severe rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hemophilia, systemic lupus, obesity, or anemia and those with previous prosthetic infections face a greater risk of complications.

Common complications that may occur over the short and long-term include:

  • Blood Clots – Approximately 1% of patients may develop deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.
  • Infections – Though antibiotics are administered during and immediately after surgery, infections can rarely occur. Some infections may arise years after the procedure and lead to the artificial joint failing requiring revisionary surgery.
  • Injured Nerves and Blood Vessels – In rare instances, nerves and blood vessels may sustain damage during the operation leading to regional discoloration, varying leg temperature, and sensations of weakness and numbness. 
  • Loosening – Regular wear and tear is a common long-term issue and leads to the replaced hip loosening; however, this occurs far less thanks to advances in prosthetics engineering and better materials.
  • Breakdown – Old implants can gradually deteriorate and break, though less than 0.5% of patients report such cases
  • Dislocations – Around 2-4% of hip replacements suffer dislocations where the prosthetic ball is displaced from the artificial socket.
  • Different Leg Lengths – After surgery, most legs will measure the same length, though differences can be noticed at times, requiring orthopedic footwear solutions to address it 
  • Joint Instability and Stiffness – Commonly occurs when soft tissues solidify into bone, in what is known as heterotopic ossification. 
  • Residual Pain – While most patients report less pain following a hip replacement, residual symptoms may linger and become apparent after performing activities.