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Supermodel Paulina Porizkova recently made headlines after undergoing a double hip replacement last month. The 58-year-old shared the news with followers on Instagram writing, “It turns out I was born with congenital hip dysplasia — and because of that, the cartilage in my hips is worn out.”
On Thursday, Porizkova shared a post-op update and said she knows that she’ll eventually “be proud” of the incisions on her hips.
More than 117,000 hip and knee replacement surgeries were performed from 2021 to 2022, a 5.9 per cent increase compared to the previous year, the Canadian Institute for Health Information reports. With the procedure on the rise thanks to longer life expectancies, increased risk factors, and a growing baby boomer population, here’s what you need to know about the surgery, risks, recovery time and more.
What is hip replacement surgery?
Hip replacement surgery, medically known as arthroplasty, is the second most common inpatient surgery in Canada. The procedure is designed to alleviate pain and improve functionality in individuals with severe hip joint damage. The surgery involves removing the damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial implant. The artificial joint mimics the natural hip joint’s movement, allowing for smoother mobility and improved quality of life and are typically made of metal, polyethylene (plastic), or ceramic.
There are typically three different approaches to performing hip replacement surgery, including traditional or posterior approach, anterior approach and lateral approach. The choice of approach depends on a variety of factors, including the surgeon’s preference, patient anatomy, and the specific condition being treated.
Hip replacements are very common surgeries in patients over the age of 60, Dr. Jason Werle, senior medical director at Alberta Health Services tells Yahoo Canada. Celebrities like Jane Fonda, Steve Carell, Lionel Richie and Madonna have all had the procedure done.
“[But] younger patients in their 30s to 50s can have other conditions that may require a hip replacement at a young age,” he explains. “The end result is a painful hip with a restricted range of motion that may require surgery.”
Are there risks to having hip replacement surgery?
Although uncommon, some potential hip replacement complications include:
Double hip replacements come with a slightly increased risk of infection, blood clots, and blood transfusion, “but the risks and benefits have to be weighed when deciding whether to proceed [with surgery],” Werle says.
People who menstruate or who have anemia may be at a higher risk of blood transfusion because of blood loss. It’s also possible for patients to require more than one surgery, however only seven per cent of surgeries from 2021 to 2022 required a revision.
What is recovery like for a hip replacement surgery?
While Porizkova was up and walking on her own within 18 hours of her surgery, the same can’t be said for everyone.
Recovery from hip replacement surgery is a structured process that involves multiple phases. Initial hospitalization lasts one to three days, during which patients receive post-operative care. Rehabilitation and physiotherapy follow, focusing on restoring joint function and building strength gradually.
“Generally, patients stay [until] they can weight bear on the operative leg, and manage their pain and exercises independently at home,” Werle says. “Some patients who are motivated and have support at home can be discharged the same day as their procedure, [which] is increasing across the country partly due to changes in care during the pandemic.”
A double procedure is actually the same recovery length as a single procedure. “That’s one of the advantages to [double] procedures that has to be balanced with the slightly increased risks,” Werle explains. Interestingly, hip replacement patients tend to recover quicker than knee replacement patients.
“A knee that doesn’t bend causes all kinds of daily living challenges,” he adds. “For hip replacements, generally patients just walk as part of their recovery as range of motion is not a heavy focus post-op.”
From hip surgery to getting back to full mobility, the recovery period can take up to two months, but it depends on other factors like age, lifestyle, pre-existing conditions, and how active you were before surgery.
Teresa Stebe, 88, found out she needed a hip replacement two years ago after having trouble moving her legs, getting up, and bending over to tend to her garden at her Montreal home. It took her a while to recover from the procedure, she says — one to two weeks of physiotherapy followed by two to three months of slow recovery, which her doctors said went well.
Now I can go back to doing the things I love.Teresa Stebe
“At first I was limited because I live in a house with my husband and using stairs, which is part of my daily life, wasn’t an option,” Stebe tells Yahoo Canada. “I had a cane to help with distance and going around, but other than that I didn’t feel too limited.”
“I’m really happy I did it,” she says. “Now I can go back to doing the things I love.”
How do you know if you need a hip replacement?
Jan Fong-Lee, 56, had her first hip replacement at the age of 54 — and her second eight months later. Before her surgery, Fong-Lee tells Yahoo Canada she experienced decreased mobility and pain, and difficult performing normal daily activities for approximately 10 years.
Other warning signs that something may be wrong with your hips include stiffness, damaged hip joints, and inflammation or swelling.
“I wouldn’t be able to walk too far or do stairs,” Fong-Lee says. “I would get flare ups with pain thinking I injured it working out.”
I wish I had done it earlierJan Fong-Lee
Fong-Lee says she has a high pain threshold and waited for it to get really bad before going to the doctor and discovering she had osteoarthritis. She also learned she had developed necrosis (a breakdown of tissue) and a fracture on her left hip.
While her right hip wasn’t bad at the time, it quickly progressed to be bone-on-bone about two months after her first surgery. “My doctor said I could explore getting an injection for the pain that could buy me a year if it worked,” she says, “but I didn’t want to put it off.”
An avid runner with an active lifestyle, Fong-Lee was relieved to have an answer to her pain. “I felt I was young to be having it, but also ready as I needed to get active again,” she says. “The pain made me depressed; I couldn’t do the things I loved.
“I wish I had done it earlier.”