Hip Dislocation After Hip Replacement: Causes And Prevention

how common is hip dislocation after hip replacement


Hip replacement, or hip arthroplasty, is a common surgical procedure aimed at improving a patient’s quality of life by relieving pain and restoring mobility. Despite advancements in medical technology and surgical techniques, postoperative complications such as hip dislocation after hip replacement remain significant concerns. This complication, particularly recurrent dislocation, can lead to severe pain and the need for additional surgery. Understanding how common is hip dislocation after hip replacement is crucial as this complication, particularly recurrent dislocation, can lead to severe pain and the need for additional surgery.

Hip Replacement Surgery

Hip replacement surgery involves replacing the damaged parts of the hip joint with artificial components. The femoral head (the top part of the thigh bone) is replaced with a prosthetic head, while the hip socket is lined with a durable cup. Various surgical approaches, including the posterior approach and anterolateral approach, are used depending on the patient’s condition and the surgeon’s expertise. Despite the success of hip arthroplasties in providing pain relief and improved mobility, they come with a risk for dislocation, which varies depending on factors like the type of implant and surgical technique used.

Surgical approach and technique:

  • Experienced surgeons: Choosing orthopedic surgeons with extensive experience in hip arthroplasties can minimize the risk of component malposition and ensure proper implant positioning.
  • Surgical treatment options: Surgeons may opt for different approaches, such as the posterior or anterolateral approach, depending on the patient’s anatomy and risk factors for dislocation.

Post-operative care:

  • Closed reduction and surgical revisions: In cases of dislocation, closed reduction is often the first step, followed by revision surgeries if recurrent dislocation occurs.
  • Physical therapy and exercises: Engaging in prescribed physical therapy can strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve soft tissue balance, reducing the risk of dislocation.

Implant selection and positioning:

  • Type of implant and size: The selection of the type of implant, such as the dual mobility cup or larger head sizes, can affect dislocation rates.
  • Component exchange and acetabular liners: In revision procedures, component exchange or the use of specialized acetabular liners like lateralized liners can address issues of recurrent dislocation.

Causes of Hip Dislocation After Hip Replacement

Causes of Hip Dislocation After Hip Replacement

The causes of hip replacement dislocation post-replacement can be multifaceted, involving mechanical, patient-related, and activity-related factors. Notably, the incidence rates of dislocation have been reported to vary widely, from 0.12% to 16.13%, with an overall pooled rate of 2.10% over a weighted mean follow-up duration of six years. This variation highlights the complexity of postoperative outcomes and emphasizes the importance of personalized monitoring and management to mitigate risks and ensure optimal recovery.

Mechanical factors

Mechanical factors play a crucial role in the stability of a total hip replacement. Two key factors to consider are inadequate soft tissue tension and wear and tear over time.

Inadequate soft tissue tension can lead to instability after total hip replacement surgery. When the soft tissues surrounding the implant are not properly tensioned, the risk of dislocation increases. This can be due to factors such as muscle weakness, trauma, or improper surgical technique.

Another mechanical factor to consider is wear and tear over time. As the hip implant is used, the components may start to deteriorate, leading to potential problems such as component malposition and ethylene wear. This can result in increased friction within the joint, making it more prone to dislocation.

Here are some other mechanical factors that a patient should look out for:

  • Component malposition: Incorrect positioning of implant components like the femoral and acetabular components can lead to dislocation.
  • Head diameters and Larger head sizes: Larger head diameters typically reduce dislocation risk by providing greater stability but may still be prone to dislocation if not paired with correct acetabular component positioning.
  • Modular components and soft tissue repair: The use of modular components and the effectiveness of soft tissue repair around the hip can influence stability and dislocation rates.

Patient-related factors

Patient-related factors significantly impact the risk of hip dislocation after hip replacement. Non-compliance with post-operative care, such as failing to adhere to movement restrictions or not engaging in prescribed physical therapy, can greatly increase the chance of dislocation. Patients must follow their healthcare provider’s recommendations closely to ensure the stability and proper healing of the hip joint.

Additionally, pre-existing health conditions, such as neuromuscular disorders, obesity, or conditions that affect bone density, can predispose patients to a higher risk of dislocation. Emergency care readiness is also vital, as timely intervention can prevent further complications.

  • Recurrent instability: Patients with a history of hip or joint instability may face higher dislocation rates.
  • Risk factors: Pre-existing health conditions, previous surgeries, and general health status can contribute to the risk of dislocation.

Physical activity and lifestyle factors

Physical activity and lifestyle factors play a pivotal role in the risk of hip dislocation following hip replacement surgery. Engaging in excessive or inappropriate physical activities too soon after surgery can jeopardize the healing process and lead to dislocation. Similarly, non-compliance with post-operative restrictions set by healthcare professionals can increase the risk of dislocation.

Weak muscles, particularly those surrounding the hip, contribute to instability and potential dislocation if not properly strengthened through prescribed physical therapy. Obesity places additional stress on the hip joint, exacerbating the risk of dislocation. Furthermore, poor positioning and movement habits, such as twisting or bending improperly, can disrupt the newly placed hip joint.

Additionally, patients with a history of previous hip problems, including prior dislocations or surgeries, may face an elevated risk of postoperative dislocation. Patients need to understand these risks and adhere to a lifestyle that supports the recovery and long-term health of their hip replacement.

Prevention of Dislocation After Hip Replacement

Steps of Anterior Hip Replacement Surgery

Understanding which movements cause dislocation after hip replacement is critical. Preventive measures against hip dislocation post-surgery encompass lifestyle modifications, adherence to post-surgical guidelines, and understanding the importance of implant selection and positioning.

Preventative measures are crucial to reduce the risk of dislocation after hip replacement surgery. It is essential to note that the rate of dislocation for primary hip replacements ranges from 0.2% to 10% per year. However, for artificial hip joints that have been surgically revised, this rate can escalate to as high as 28%. These statistics underscore the importance of adherence to post-operative guidelines, especially for patients with revised artificial hip joints, to minimize the chances of dislocation.

Avoid Certain Movements:

  • Avoid crossing legs or ankles to prevent twisting the hip out of position.
  • Keep from bending hips beyond a 90-degree angle to avoid forcing the joint out of its socket.
  • Steer clear of turning feet too far inward or outward as this can rotate the hip dangerously.

Sitting and Standing

Adopt safe techniques for sitting and standing that minimize stress on the hip. Use chairs with higher seats and avoid low sofas or chairs.

Sleeping and Lying Down

Sleep on your back with a pillow between your legs or on your non-operated side with support pillows, following the surgeon’s advice.

Getting into a Car

Enter the car by sitting down first, then swinging both legs into the car together. Avoid low vehicles where possible.

Physical Therapy and Exercises

Participate in a tailored physical therapy program to strengthen the muscles around the hip and improve flexibility and balance.

Use Assistive Devices

Utilize walkers, canes, or crutches as advised to help maintain balance and reduce pressure on the hip during recovery.

Follow Your Surgeon’s Advice

Strictly adhere to all post-operative instructions provided by your healthcare team to ensure the best outcome.

Routine Follow-Up

Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments to monitor the hip’s condition and progress.

Patient Education and Support

Educating patients about the risk factors for dislocation, the importance of following post-operative instructions, and the potential need for revision hip surgery is vital. Additionally, providing support through medical treatment and resources can help manage the expectations and recovery process.

Role of Family & Caregivers

The support of family and caregivers is crucial in the recovery process. They play a significant role in helping the patient adhere to recovery protocols and assist in recognizing signs of dislocation or complications early on.

Expert Help at Timely Medical

If you’re considering a private hip replacement in Canada or have recently undergone hip replacement surgery, Timely Medical Alternatives is your go-to resource. Immediate consultation with our network of experienced orthopaedic surgeons is crucial at the first sign of dislocation or severe pain after your hip replacement.

Our team is renowned for providing timely medical interventions that can prevent further complications and ensure the best possible outcome for your surgery. The positive Timely Medical Alternatives reviews reflect our commitment to excellence and patient satisfaction in the field of hip replacement surgery in Canada. Trust us to guide you through your recovery process with expert care and advice.


Hip replacement surgeries are increasingly common and are instrumental in improving the quality of life for many patients by alleviating pain and restoring mobility. However, the incidence of dislocation varies, with more than half occurring in the first three months following surgery.

As the population ages and the number of hip replacement procedures increases, so too does the potential for complications, including dislocations. This early vulnerability period post-surgery accentuates the need for robust post-operative care and underscores the importance of understanding the risks and preventive strategies to manage and mitigate the likelihood of dislocation effectively.

While hip dislocation is a major complication following hip replacement surgery, understanding the causes, risk factors, and preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk. Patients undergoing hip arthroplasties should engage in open discussions with their orthopedic surgeons regarding the surgical approach, implant choices, and post-operative care to ensure a successful recovery and minimize the chance of dislocation.


What are the symptoms of hip replacement loosening?

Signs of loosening include increased pain, particularly when bearing weight, swelling, and audible popping or grinding. This condition, known as aseptic loosening, is a major reason for revision surgeries.

Is it common to dislocate your hip after hip replacement?

While not extremely common, the rate of dislocation varies depending on several factors, including the surgical approach, the patient’s lifestyle, and the type of implant used. First-time dislocations typically occur within the first few months post-surgery, but late dislocations and episodes of recurrent instability can also occur.

Can a cemented hip replacement dislocate?

Yes, both cemented and uncemented hip replacements can dislocate. Factors for dislocation include surgical technique, the patient’s anatomy, and post-operative activities. Regardless of the type, all hip replacements carry some dislocation risk, underscoring the importance of proper implant positioning and patient compliance with post-surgery instructions.

About The Author

Christian Baker

Christian was born in a Group Health hospital in Washington state and holds both American & Canadian citizenship. Christian is the head of our diagnostic & ambulatory surgery department for our Canadian…

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