Practical resources to help family caregivers in the midst of caring for someone

Joint replacement: hips and knees simplified

There are many different reasons for a joint replacement. If you are experiencing pain or immobility in a joint, you should consult with a health care professional for a full assessment. A referral to an orthopedic surgeon may be required and it may be determined that a joint replacement or perhaps another type of surgery or therapy is advised.

In addition to the bones, there are many other supporting tissues in the body such as the ligaments, tendons, muscles, and cartilage to name a few. In this article, we are only going to discuss the bones of the hip and knee joints. Please note that this is a VERY simplified explanation of both the hip and knee joints and the joint replacement surgeries.

The hip joint

The bone in your thigh is called the femur. At the top of the femur there is an extension of the bone called the neck. At the top of the neck there is a round piece of bone called the head. The head of the femur fits into a hole in the pelvis called the acetabulum. This is called a “ball-and-socket joint.”  

When a “hip replacement” is necessary, the head and neck of the femur are replaced along with a cavity or “socket” that fits into the acetabulum of the pelvis.

This is a general overview. You may want even more information on hip replacements.

The knee joint

The knee joint includes the bottom of the femur (remember that this is the bone in the thigh). The bottom of the femur rests on the top of the largest bone of the lower leg called the tibia. There are rounded edges at the bottom of the femur that rest in grooves at the top of the tibia.

Of course, there is also the flat bone that makes up the “knee cap.” It is called the patella.

When a “knee replacement” is necessary, the bottom surface of the femur and the top surface of the tibia are replaced. The patella may or may not need to be modified.

Just like hips, you may want more information on knee replacements.

The surgeon will provide more information about the surgery, the length of the hospital stay, the recovery process, and the rehabilitation that will be necessary following the surgery.

Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.



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