Vail health: The ‘hippest’ hip surgery |

Vail health: The ‘hippest’ hip surgery

Dr. Todd Peters
Vail, CO Colorado

Patients struggling with hip arthritis are now being offered the latest techniques in surgery that should lead to a less painful, faster recovery.

Total hip replacement is a common orthopaedic procedure. As the population ages, it is expected to become even more common. Hip replacement surgery involves removing the head of the thighbone (femur) and replacing the ball-and-socket mechanism of the hip with artificial implants. This relieves pain and improves mobility.

Minimally invasive surgery

Advances in minimally invasive surgery now allow surgeons to perform the hip replacement through one or two small incisions. Patients usually have less pain compared with traditional hip replacement surgery, and rehabilitation is faster. Candidates for minimal incision procedures are typically thinner, younger, healthier and more motivated to have a quick recovery compared with patients who undergo the traditional surgery.

Hip resurfacing

A newer technique for hip replacement that has recently emerged is called hip resurfacing, which is designed to delay full hip replacement in younger patients. In this procedure, the socket is replaced similar to a total hip replacement. The femur, however, is covered or “resurfaced” with a hemispherical component. This fits over the head of the femur and spares the bone of the femoral head and the femoral neck. It is fixed to the femur with cement around the femoral head and has a short stem that passes into the femoral neck.

Osteoarthritis and hip replacement

Osteoarthritis of the hip is the most common reason for a hip replacement. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wear and tear of aging. It causes the cartilage covering the joint surfaces to wear out, resulting in pain and stiffness.

Other conditions that can cause destruction of the hip joint include loss of the blood supply to the head of the thighbone (osteonecrosis), rheumatoid arthritis, injury, infection and developmental abnormalities of the hip. Patients with arthritis may also have brittle bones (osteoporosis), but there is no direct relationship between bone density and the development of arthritis of the hip.


Hip arthritis typically causes pain that is dull and aching. The pain may be constant or it may come and go. Pain may be felt in the groin, thigh, and buttock, or there may be referred pain to the knee. Walking, especially for longer distances, may cause a limp.

Some patients may need a cane, crutch, or walker to help them get around. Pain usually starts slowly and worsens with time and higher activity levels. Patients with hip arthritis may have difficulty climbing stairs. Dressing, tying shoes and clipping toenails can be difficult or impossible. Pain may also interfere with sleep.

New technology

New imaging technology also allows patients to rehabilitate faster and with less pain than previously possible. A new procedure that combines the latest in minimally invasive surgery and computer generated imaging is currently being performed at the Vail Valley Medical Center. This procedure allows surgeries to be performed with minimal disruption of tissues and allows computer accuracy for placement. The ‘virtual surgery’ is performed using guidance from a computer screen.

Contact the Vail-Summit Orthopaedic Spine Team for more information on the latest techniques in hip replacement and hip resurfacing surgery.

Dr. Todd Peters is a physician and spine surgeon with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics. E-mail comments about this column to

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