Total hip replacement is major surgery, and as such runs the risk of post-operative complications. Neuropathy, or nerve damage, represents one potential obstacle to complete healing following a hip replacement. If you experience partial or complete numbness in the corresponding foot, you may have sustained some trauma to your peripheral nerves during surgery.
Nerve, arterial and blood vessel damage, particularly in minimally invasive total hip replacement procedures, can occur, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. You may also experience some numbness in the vicinity of the wound incision. In most cases, sensation returns when patients engage in a light exercise plan to rebuild the strength of the new hip and regain range of motion. Speak to your surgeon or health care practitioner if your numbness remains unchanged several months after surgery.
Foot drop occurs when damage or trauma happens in the nerves that service the foot, especially the peroneal nerve. Speak to your surgeon or health care practitioner if the numbness is accompanied by symptoms such as having trouble lifting your foot as you walk, or if you find yourself dragging your foot.
According to a 2005 study led by Christopher M. Farrell at the Mayo Clinic and published in the "Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery," hip replacement patients with pre-existing conditions such as arthritis or hip dysplasia – recurrent hip dislocation – tend to encounter numbness and nerve damage in the feet and elsewhere more frequently.
Nature designed the body to heal itself. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, nerves do have the capacity to regenerate. Hip replacement patients can create an optimal environment wherein regeneration occurs by following a regular exercise program and avoiding alcohol. If numbness in your foot is an issue, quitting smoking represents one of the most important lifestyle changes to adopt, as cigarettes hamper blood flow, which will intensify neuropathy symptoms.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Total Hip Replacement
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Foot Drop Information Page:
- eOrthopod.com: Mayo Clinic Investigates Nerve Palsy After Hip Replacement