Hip resurfacing explained

Hip resurfacing is a type of surgery that fixes up your natural joints to help you regain mobility. Dr Dan Fick explains the procedure.

Hip resurfacing – also called hip resurfacing arthroplasty – can be an alternative to full hip replacement for some people with advanced arthritis of the hip.

Hip resurfacing vs total hip replacement

Total Hip Replacement Xrays

Dr Dan Fick says:

“In a traditional hip replacement, the entire hip joint is removed. This involves the removal of the head of the thigh bone (femoral head) and the hip socket (the acetabulum). They are then replaced with components made of plastic, ceramic or metal. 

“In the hip resurfacing procedure, instead of replacing the whole joint, I trim the head of the natural thigh bone (femoral head) and cap it with a metal implant. Any damaged bone and cartilage in the hip socket will be removed and replaced, but I don’t remove the whole original joint. It’s more like joint refurbishment.”

Hip resurfacing diagram

Who should consider hip resurfacing?

“Hip resurfacing can be a good alternative to total hip replacement for younger, active men, who are more likely than women to have the hip space to accommodate the large hip implant,” says Dan. “We can achieve good outcomes if you’re under 60 and have strong, healthy bones. It’s good to have a large frame – people who are small-framed or older might be at greater risk of complications like bone fracture.”

What are the benefits of hip resurfacing?

Easier to replace implants:
“One benefit of hip resurfacing is that they are easier to re-do if needed,” says Dan.
“Whether it’s a total hip replacement or hip resurfacing, the parts of an implant can wear out over time, or parts of the implant may fail for some reason. Because hip resurfacing removes less bone from the thighbone (femur) than a total hip replacement, it’s often easier to replace the components, if required.”

Reduced risk of dislocated hips:
In hip resurfacing, the size of the ball used is bigger than in a traditional hip replacement, so it may be harder to dislocate, although this depends on the type and size of the implants used.”

You may walk more naturally:
“Compared to total hip replacement, some people walk more naturally after hip resurfacing, although the differences are not huge. You’ll still be able to walk normally after total hip replacement as well,” says Dan.

What are the downsides of hip resurfacing?

Metal ion risk:
“Over time, tiny metal particles (ions) produced by the movement of the metal ball against the metal socket used in hip resurfacing may produce an allergic or toxic reaction causing pain, swelling and tissue damage (known as an adverse local tissue reaction). The ions may also enter the bloodstream and have adverse effects around the body. If this occurs, we can do a revision surgery to replace the prosthesis. While metal has been the traditional material for hip resurfacing components, we now have access to ceramic hip resurfacing options,” says Dan.
“To reduce this risk, we have patient selection criteria to ensure this is the right procedure for you and we also monitor with X-rays and blood tests.”

Fracture of the thigh bone (femoral neck fracture):
“A small number of people who have hip resurfacing may eventually fracture their thighbone at the femoral neck. If this occurs, we can convert the hip resurfacing into a traditional hip replacement.”

Should you consider hip resurfacing?

“Hip resurfacing is still a hot topic in orthopaedic surgery and studies have been conducted to compare the outcomes of hip resurfacing with total hip replacement, especially in younger patients.” says Dan. “I find that my patients who have had the procedure recover well and are glad they did it. We can discuss which option is right for you when you come and see us.”

If you’re considering hip resurfacing, contact Dr Dan Fick and the team today.