Total Hip Replacement

What are the complications and risks of having a total hip replacement?

The complication rate following hip replacement surgery is very low. However like all surgery, there are risks that need to be considered when deciding to have hip replacement surgery.

Side effects

Side effects are symptoms that occur after every operation and are a normal part of the recovery from the operation. The main side effects of hip replacement surgery are:

  • A sore hip which may last for several weeks after the operation
  • Swelling in the thigh which will also last for several weeks after the operation


Complications are uncommon problems that occur during or after the operation. Most people having hip surgery aren't affected.

The general complications for all operations are:

  • A reaction to the anaesthetic
  • Infection of the wound or joint
  • Excessive blood loss
  • A blood clot, usually in a vein of the leg (known as a deep vein thrombosis or DVT)

Specific complications of hip replacement surgery are:

    Xray of a dislocated total hip replacement
    X-ray of a dislocated total hip replacement
  • Dislocation: Dislocation of the hip joint is when the ball of the hip pops out of the socket. Dislocation occurs in 1 – 4% of people who have had hip replacement surgery. A dislocated hip may be relocated without surgery or may require a new hip replacement to fix the problem.
  • Infection: The hip replacement can become infected. This is a rare but serious complication of hip joint replacements. The risk of this occurring is between 0.02 – 1% of all people having a joint replacement.
  • Difference in leg length: After the operation, the leg that has been operated on may be slightly longer or shorter than the other side. This the most common complication of hip replacement surgery. Usually it doesn’t cause any problems but may lead to pain or dislocation of the hip in some cases.
  • Fractures: A fracture is a break in the bone. Fractures can occur during a total hip replacement while the new hip is being put in place.
  • Loose joint: The hip replacement may become ‘loose’. This is a rare complication that may require another operation to fix the problem.
  • Nerve damage: Nerves can be damaged during the operation which can cause numbness or weakness in areas of the leg.

It is important to note that the risks of certain complications may be higher or lower if the person having the operation has a medical condition that makes them more vulnerable to risks. For instance we know that obesity significantly increases the risk of an infection after a hip replacement.

Hip revision surgery 

During your original hip replacement, your hip joint was replaced with artificial hip parts. Hip revision surgery means having another operation to replace the worn out components of a hip replacement. Hip replacements usually last between 10 – 15 years.

Replacing an artificial hip joint is a more complex operation than the original hip replacement. It will often take longer and there are higher rates of complications than the original surgery.


18 April, 2014