Hip Replacement Complications
While hip replacement is generally considered safe, there are a number of complications, some quite serious, that can result. Some of these problems are common to all surgery, while others are complications unique to the hip replacement. Some complications can be further delineated by the type of material used in the manufacture of the hip device.
Blood clots and Infections are complications that are generally possible with any type of surgery. Of particular concern for hip replacement patients is the possibility of of blood clots forming in the leg which was the subject of the hip replacement as the need to keep the hip immobilized following surgery can lessen blood flow and promote a clot. Blood thinning medications as well as compression devices and ultimately exercise are the common ways to avoid clots. Infections at the incision site can usually be treated with antibiotics but more significant infections deep in the tissue close to the replacement device can require surgery and even device replacement.
Bone fracture, product loosening and breaking and product dislocation are complications unique to the hip replacement process. Bone fractures can occur during the implant surgery and are generally detected and repaired during that surgery. Loosening, breaking and dislocation are post operative complications that can be caused by a variety of circumstances. Causes range from external physical pressures from activities engaged in by the patient to internal changes of the environment within the patients body related to the implant itself. With the introduction of metal-on-metal (MOM) prosthesis devices, there has been a corresponding increase in bone and tissue destruction at the implant site due to the shedding of metal from those devices. Bone and tissue death cause a loss of anchoring material as well as the loss of support for the implant device that often lead to an environment that is conducive to product breakdown. Frequently revision surgery is required to fix these problems.
What is Metallosis
Metallosis, which is also caused by the shedding of microscopic pieces of metal from the MOM devices, can lead to very serious complications and health problems. When minute metal ions from these devices are allowed to enter the blood stream they can lead to a number of physical reactions within the body including:
- Cognitive Problems
- Emotional Instability
- Nervous System Breakdowns
- Organ Breakdown
Metallosis is a very serious side effect that is detected by measuring the metal content within the bloodstream. If a patient is found to have elevated levels of metal within their body removal of the offending device is absolutely necessary.
Joint Stiffening can occur when the soft tissue hardens around the implant site ( known as ossification). Although generally painless, it can make it more difficult for the patients to move their hips. This problem is usually addressed by either radiation or medication.
Wear and tear can occur with any hip device regardless of the material used to manufacture the product. Those patients leading an active lifestyle are more likely to be candidates for a second hip replacement, also sometimes referred to as revision surgery. Unfortunately, some of the newer generation prosthesis that incorporate metal components, have been shown to wear out earlier than the devices they were intended to replace.