Hip Implants

Hip implants are artificial devices that form the essential parts of the hip joint during a hip replacement surgery. The hip implants vary by size, shape, and material. Implants are made of biocompatible materials that are accepted by the body without producing any rejection response. Implants can be made of metal alloys, ceramics, or plastics, and can be joined to the bone. The metals used are most commonly a titanium alloy, whereas the plastic used is polyethylene.  Various components of a hip implant may be used for a hip replacement surgery.  The components used may depend on the extent of damage to the hip joint, and the preference of the orthopedic surgeon performing the procedure.

Components of a Hip Implant

The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball or the spherical head of the thighbone (femur) moves inside a cup shaped socket (acetabulum) of the pelvis.

The components of a hip implant replicate the natural shape and structure of the ball-and-socket joint. The components used may depend on the size of the body and vary from patient to patient. A total hip replacement implant has three parts:

  • Stem: The stem fits into the femur
  • Ball: The ball replaces the spherical head of the femur
  • Cup: The cup replaces the worn-out hip socket

Types of Hip Implants

Based on the patient’s activity level, any of the following types of hip implants may be used in a hip replacement surgery.

Metal-on-polyethylene implant: The ball is replaced with a metal ball and the socket is replaced with a polyethylene lining.

Ceramic-on-polyethylene implant: The ball is replaced with a ceramic ball and the socket is replaced with a polyethylene lining.

Metal-on-metal implant: The ball and socket of the hip joint are replaced with metal prosthesis. Metal-on-metal implants are not routinely used in orthopedics today due to adverse reaction to metal ions that can result from wear in these bearing surfaces.

Ceramic-on-ceramic implant: The ball is replaced with a ceramic ball, and the socket has a ceramic lining. They wear less than ceramic-on-polyethylene implants, and are most durable among the available hip implants.  There is a small incidence of audible squeak with these implants and are usually reserved for the very young patient.

Types of Implant Fixation

Depending on the age and activity level of the patient undergoing hip replacement surgery, an orthopaedic surgeon may recommend any of the available three types of implant fixation.

Cemented Fixation: The femoral component may be secured in place with bone cement. The bone cement is made from a special polymer called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Patients can immediately be full weight bearing and walk after a cemented fixation. Cemented fixation is an option for less active patients or those with osteoporotic bone.

Cementless Fixation: Cementless implants are coated with a porous material.  They attach to the new bone that grows to the surface of the implant..  Cementless fixation is an option for most active patients with good bone quality.

Hybrid Fixation: Hybrid fixation uses a combination of cemented and cementless fixation. The acetabular socket is inserted without cement and the femoral stem is inserted with cement.