Unlike traditional hip replacement, hip resurfacing doesn't replace the "ball" of the hip with a metal or ceramic ball. Instead, the damaged hip ball is reshaped and capped with a metal prosthesis. The damaged hip socket also is fitted with a metal prosthesis — similar to what is used in a conventional hip replacement.
With newer materials, the artificial joint implants used for total hip replacement are lasting longer and may last for decades, although long-term data aren't yet available for newer implants. This isn't an issue for older people who receive a hip replacement late in life. But hip resurfacing might be a better choice for younger people because the procedure leaves more bone intact, which can make it easier to perform a total hip replacement if needed later.
Resurfacing generally results in a bigger hip ball than what is typically used in a conventional hip replacement, which may reduce the risk of dislocation. But newer implants used for conventional hip replacement now offer the option of a larger hip ball, similar in size to what results from hip resurfacing procedures.
Hip resurfacing is technically more difficult and generally requires a larger incision than what is used for a conventional hip replacement. And the risk of complications is slightly higher with hip resurfacing — even when controlling for factors such as your age, sex and activity levels. Hip resurfacing results in a metal ball on a metal socket, and in a small number of people, these metallic moving parts may cause pain, immune system reaction (hypersensitivity) or, rarely, tissue destruction.
Hip resurfacing isn't recommended for people who have:
- Impaired kidney function
- Known metal hypersensitivities
- Large areas of dead bone (avascular necrosis)