Understanding conditions that can lead to hip replacements – acetabular fractures

Birmingham hip surgeon explains acetabular fracturesA hip replacement is the last step in a chain of treatments consultants can try if you have been suffering from any number of hip complaints. One of the more serious conditions that patients may have suffered with before being referred to a hip consultant is an acetabular fracture.

An acetabular fracture is quite a rare infliction, one which typically occurs from a serious accident such as a car accident or a fall from height. It is a fracture in the primary hip socket, known as the hip’s ball and socket joint.

The ‘ball’ element of the hip socket is the top of the thighbone, or femur. This fits into the area known as the ‘socket’, which is within the pelvis. Both the ball and the socket are bones that are covered with articular cartilage – this is a smooth, oily substance that is designed to protect the bones and to give them the opportunity to move without causing friction.

It is the same principle as oiling a joint in any piece of complex machinery – and in this case, the complex machine is the body.

An acetabular fracture can affect how comfortably the ‘ball’ element of the hip bone sits within the ‘socket’ and the result can be that abnormal pressure is exerted on areas of the joint – in particular the joint’s important cartilage.

If this is not recognised and treated early enough, this can result in longer term issues with how the joint functions, which over time can lead to the need for a hip replacement later in life.

What can I expect from an acetabular fracture?

The severity of the fracture depends on a number of different variables, such as whether it is a clean break or if there are multiple fractures (multiple fracture are more challenging to fix), how fragmented the broken pieces of bone are, and how much damage has been done to the cartilage protecting the bone.

The body’s ability to heal successfully can also be affected by how much trauma there is to the surrounding area too, such as the muscles, nerves and tendons surrounding the hip bones.

What exactly are the long term issues caused by acetabular fractures?

If left untreated, poorly treated, or in cases where it is particularly challenging to effectively treat the fracture(s), acetabular fractures can wear away the hip cartilage to such as extent they can result in arthritis. After suffering such an injury to the ball and socket joint, patients have an increased susceptibility to posttraumatic degenerative arthritis of the hip joint.

If you have been diagnosed with posttraumatic degenerative arthritis then it is important to contact a hip or joint specialist to review your options.

Consultants such as Birmingham hip surgeon Mr Manoj Sikand will be able to assess your case and evaluate your options. If a hip replacement is going to be the most appropriate course of action, you will be given the necessary support, information and guidance to understand what the next steps look like for you, and how best to proceed.