Basics of the hip joint
The hip joint is a very special joint and is also one of the most heavily taxed joints in the human body. The hip joint differs from the cast majority of the joints in the human body because it is a bal and socket type of joint.
This is a joint type that gives the maximum mobility and strength in the largest number of directions. There are only 4 joints of this type in the human body and they are located at the hips and shoulders.
The muscles that make the movement of these joints possible are also among the strongest muscles in the human body.
The hip joint supports all the weight of the upper body and helps to stabilize it during motion. It is only natural that this is the joint that wears out the fastest and is the first joint that begins to show problems with advancing age.
The elements of the hip joint are the ball which is connected to the femur or thigh bone and the socket that the ball fits into which is connected to the girdle.
The surfaces of the bone are separated by a thin layer of fluid that acts as a lubricant to ensure smooth movement.
The joint is also held in place by some of the strongest ligaments in the human body that ensure the ball doesn’t slip around and dislocate under the application of sudden forces.
In addition to the fluid that ensures smooth movement, the surfaces of the ball and socket joint are covered with a thin layer of smooth cartilage that further reduces the friction of movement. This cartilage is perhaps the most important element of the entire joint.
Hip joint problems
The most common problem of the hip joint is mild to severe pain during movement. This is a sign that the bones of the joint are touching each other because of the degradation of the fluid and lubricant layer that separates them.
Age is the primary factor in hip problems but they can also arise due to genetic and hereditary conditions in young and otherwise healthy people.
As age advances, the cartilage that lines the surfaces of the ball and socket can become inflamed. This decreases the free space between the ball and the socket that is occupied by the fluid and causes the surfaces of the joint to rub on each other.
When this rubbing happens, the cartilage layer is degraded further and the problems continues to grow on itself, becoming a negative feedback loop.
Sometimes, the hip joint can also be damaged due to severe injury caused by penetrating or blunt trauma.
Blunt trauma injuries that necessitate hip replacement usually crush either the ball or the socket or sometimes even both, making repair and salvage of the joint impossible.
Penetrating trauma is also quite severe and frequently damages the supporting structures around the joint as well.
How hip replacement solves these problems
Hip replacement is a procedure that is employed when it is counterproductive to treat the joint problems with drugs and therapy. This can have several causes.
The first possible cause is advanced age. As people grow older, their bone density decreases and their bones become more porous. The most common way this happens is known as Osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the scientific term for wear and tear that is accumulated over an entire lifetime that makes further non surgical treatments ineffective.
Another problem that can necessitate hip replacement is Rheumatoid arthritis. This is a special kind of arthritis where the cartilage becomes chronically inflamed and all kinds of movement contribute to its degradation.
Hip replacements that are necessitated due to brunt or penetrating trauma are known as Post-traumatic arthritis.
A patient with this kind of arthritis is also a great candidate for a hip replacement surgery. In addition to injury, another possible cause of the degradation of the hip joint can be the limitation of blood and nutrient supply.
Sometimes, due to a variety of reasons, the blood supply to a hip joint can be compromised or greatly reduced. Over time, this causes necrosis of the components of the hip joint.
Necrosis is the technical term for tissue death. Once this happens, the only solution is to replace the entire joint as dead cells cannot regenerate and repair themselves.
Hereditary causes that necessitate hip replacement surgery include cases where the hip bone and joint grow abnormally and do not maintain the right contour.
In such cases, treatments may be attempted during childhood but the best bet is to go for a hip replacement after puberty.
A hip replacement surgery is a treatment wherein all the functional parts of the hip joint are replaced with artificial components that perfectly mimic the original elements of the joint.
The ball and socket are made out of materials that are built to withstand the loads and stresses of the joint and are machined using high precision CNC lathes and milling machines to conform to the natural contours of the joint as closely as possible.
The surface of the joint is lined with a very smooth material that has static and dynamic coefficients of friction that are equivalent to that of the original smooth cartilage layer.
This ensures that movement with the replacement hip joint is completely natural and feels no different from that of the original joint.
Hip replacement is a process that eliminates all the mobility issues that patients suffer from when their hip joints go bad.
The replacement hip is made of artificial materials that are extremely durable and dependable. These materials are specially chosen so that they do not interfere with the normal functioning of the body and do not aggravate the immune system.
Before the artificial hip is implanted, it is tested extensively to ensure that it performs well under all kinds of loads and that the contours of the ball and socket fit perfectly.
The actual surgical procedure for a hip replacement is also very simple. The entire surgery is done through a single incision in a single session. The incision is kept as small as possible to minimize the recovery time involved.
The procedure usually lasts between 1 and 2 hours. The recovery times for hip replacement range between 3 and 6 months depending on the individual patients. The younger a patient is, the faster the recovery.