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Squeaking Hip Replacements

Are Hip Replacements That Squeak a Problem?

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Updated May 16, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

ceramic hip replacement noise squeak

A hip replacement implant may make noise - especially ceramic hip replacements.

Image © Medical Multimedia Group
Hip replacement surgery is a treatment for severe hip arthritis. During a hip replacement surgery, the worn out ball-and-socket hip joint is replaced with an artificial joint. Most commonly, artificial hip replacements are made of metal and plastic.

Unfortunately, these hip replacements can wear out over time. To reduce this wear, there are other materials used less commonly to replace the hip joint. These so-called alternative bearing surfaces can either be all metal (no plastic), or have ceramic parts.

While these alternative bearing hip replacements do not seem to wear out as quickly as a standard hip replacement, there are other concerns with these materials. One specific concern, especially with ceramic hip replacements, is that the artificial joint is prone to make a squeaking noise. The squeak from an artificial hip replacement may be an inconvenience, or it may be a sign of problems with the artificial joint.

What Causes a Squeaking Hip?

Squeaking from a hip replacement can be the result of different issues related to the implant, the surgery, or the patient.
  • Implant Issues
    Squeaking is almost always a problem in patients who have an implant with an alternative bearing surface (something other than metal and plastic), and most commonly with ceramic hip replacements. Some specific implants have been more prone to squeaking, and in some cases it seems to be related to the size of the implant, with smaller implants squeaking more commonly.

  • Surgical Positioning
    When a hip replacement implant is positioned in your body, your surgeon must ensure it is appropriately aligned. Some studies have found that issues with implant alignment can lead to a tendency for squeaking.

  • Patient Factors
    Certain patient characteristics have been associated with squeaking, including being young, heavy, and tall. Patients who move their hip through a wider range of motion are also more likely to experience squeaking of their hip replacement.

Is a Squeak a Problem?

Most often, no. A squeaking hip is usually an inconvenience, and your doctor may be able to help you prevent squeaking by advising you on specific positions and activities to avoid. However, any squeaking should be reported to, and evaluated by, your doctor. Especially with ceramic hip replacements, there are reports of rare cases of squeaking being an early sign of an implant problem.

If the squeaking is determined not to be a problem with the implant, and the noise is tolerable, the problem is usually left alone. If the implant is a problem, or if the squeaking cannot be tolerated, a second hip replacement surgery, called a revision hip replacement can be performed.

Source:

Walter WL, et al. "A Review of Squeaking Hips" J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 18, No 6, June 2010, 319-326.

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