Hip Replacement Timing – Why Delaying May Be the Wrong Choice

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Getting a hip replacement is almost like an investment. Here you take the hit early on – being put out of action and going through considerable discomfort – with the pay off coming later down the line when you will hopefully be able to return to your normal life in less pain than you were before.

Like any investment, the sooner you make it, the more you stand to gain from it. Many people put off their hip replacement and choose to instead wait for it to get worse, or wait for it to be a ‘better time’. The truth though really is that there is not really ever going to be a ‘good’ time. If you think you have a lot on your plate now, then you probably didn’t foresee it a few months ago. Similarly in a few months you are likely to have a different selection of just-as-pressing issues. What you are doing by opting to have your hip replacement as soon as possible is getting it out of the way so that you can return to your normal life with no pain and this is highly important.

If you think you are going to lose earnings, or lose muscle mass, then the more time you spend earning or exercising the more you will lose when you have your operation. The same goes for any other area of your life – the more you work to achieve, the greater the blow will be when you have to have the operation, and you will have that looming over you like a dark cloud in the interim. Similarly the sooner you have your hip operation, the more time you will get to spend with your new hip. In other words, if you wait two years to have it done, then you not only have the pain of the operation itself, but two years of additional pain and discomfort on top of that.

Another reason to have a hip replacement sooner rather than later is that having a bad hip can cause you to place more weight on your other leg and this in turn can result in you ending up with two bad hips. At the same time you are more likely to have accidents such as trips and falls. In general you are also better able to deal with surgery and all forms of trauma the younger you are, then there is the fact that your hip joint will deteriorate more the longer you put it off, resulting in stronger medication and worse deformity of the bone which can make a hip replacement more difficult. So it makes sense to have your surgery early on from a health perspective. Again in this way it is an investment – experience pain now, but thereby stop yourself from having as many future conditions. Finally, as you never know what other complications may arise, or how long you might have to remain on the waiting list, it is a good idea to get the procedure out of the way early on so that you are not caught out later. You also have no guarantee that your hip will not suddenly get a lot worse and then you will regret not having been put on the waiting list sooner.

Of course there are arguments for putting off a hip replacement too. One of these is that any weight bearing implant (such as a hip replacement) has only a finite life. This means some people will opt to have it done later on in their life with the hope that they will only have to have the operation once. In other scenarios it will genuinely be a very bad time for a hip replacement – perhaps you are starting a new job, have just had a child, or are moving house. In some cases it will of course be necessary to put off the operation, but it is important at the same time to ensure that you are not making excuses. If you do have to put the situation off then give yourself a deadline for the operation and make sure you get on the waiting list early.

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Christopher Jacoby

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  • I enjoyed this well-written article. I would, however, add one reason putting off hip replacement surgery for a period of time may be absolutely necessary, and quite possibly the most common reason people wait. They have no insurance, so they are waiting until age 65 so that they will have Medicare coverage. They are many people who have worked their entire life, such as myself, who have been in positions that do not offer health coverage. In 2012, the average cost of replacing a hip (in the U.S.) is $48,000.

Christopher Jacoby

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