Hip replacement: The risks

"I had a total hip replacement, and now that leg is two inches longer than the other. The surgeon is mystified. Was the prosthesis the wrong size?"

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

In a total hip replacement, the upper end of the femur (thigh bone) is sawn off and replaced with a prosthesis. This end forms the ball part of the joint. The surgeon also replaces the socket (part of the pelvis). If the femur is cut too long or short, or if the artificial joint is too small or big, the result is a leg that's too long or too short. Your surgeon is being somewhat disingenuous if he says he is "mystified". This is a common problem after total hip replacements; 22 per cent of legs end up more than 10mm (nearly half an inch) too long. A shortened leg occurs in 8 per cent of operations. Differences of less than 10mm are usually not a problem. Don't despair; I'm sure the orthopaedic surgeons will find a solution for you, but it may involve using a shoe lift or some other clever device. If nothing is done, there's a good chance that you will develop lower back pain and a lop-sided gait.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.

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