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Total hip replacement is a surgical procedure in which the orthopedic surgeon removes bone and cartilage in a damaged hip joint and replaces it with an artificial joint, which is a prosthetic ball and socket that mimics the structure and motion of the natural hip joint. Hip replacement followed by rehabilitative therapy is typically helpful for people with significant damage to the hip joint, alleviating pain and restoring the joint's range of motion.
The hip, a very stable ball-and-socket joint, is one of the largest weight-bearing joints in the body. The femoral head (ball) at the top of the femur (thighbone) fits into the acetabulum (a rounded socket) in the pelvis. Tissues called ligaments form a capsule connecting the ball to the socket and, along with muscles, hold the joint in place.
Cartilage, which is a layer of smooth tissue, covers the surface of the bones, helping the ball to rotate easily in the socket, while bursae (fluid-filled sacs) cushion the area where muscles or tendons glide across bone. The capsule surrounding the joint also has a lining (synovium) that lubricates the joint, further reducing friction and making movement easier.
During hip replacement surgery, the surgeon replaces the damaged hip joint with a prosthetic joint consisting of a stem with a ball that is implanted in the femur (thighbone), and a second cup-shaped component that is implanted in the pelvis. The ball of the femur rotates within the cup, allowing the hip to function without the pain associated with arthritis. The precise positioning of the implant components relative to the patient's pelvis and femur results in accurate joint alignment that simulates a healthy hip and allows the leg to move freely within its normal range of motion.