Ask Dr. Wickum: How long does a hip replacement last?

The technology of artificial hip implants is improving. Dr. Daren Wickum explains how medical advances have affected the life of a hip implant and discusses how long a hip replacement lasts.

Osteoarthritis can be a disabling disease.

Although it is more common as we age, even young adults can be affected by the degenerative joint problems linked to osteoarthritis. For patients whose pain and function is not improved by conservative therapy, hip replacement surgery can be a life-changing option. 

So how long does a hip replacement last?

The majority of patients who have hip replacement surgery experience a decrease in pain. They also experience increased mobility, and improvements in the activities of daily living and quality of life. However, the implanted artificial hip joint won’t last forever.

“The honest answer is that we don’t know with certainty,” says Dr. Wickum, an orthopedic surgeon at Summit with extensive surgical experience in hip replacement. “Although there are many ways to test a hip replacement, there’s no sure answer about how long a hip replacement will last. The most important way to test longevity is by following a group of hip replacement patients. The implants we use today are modifications and improvements of older designs—just like new cars. Most of our data for these implants goes back for as far as the implants have been used: about 15 to 17 years. There is also lab test data, but a lab test can’t tell you how the implant is going to work in a patient, and that’s what I care about. My patients don’t spend their lives in a lab, moving their hips back and forth in a prescribed rote fashion. They go to work and play golf and take walks and chase after their grandkids. How their hip holds up to these activities is what really matters.”

“I tell my patients that today’s implants have a 15-year survival of up to 99 percent,” says Dr. Wickum. “It’s my job to sit down with each of my patients and discuss their concerns.I support them in making the decision that is best for their circumstances.”

 

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