When Hip Replacement Surgery Goes Wrong

Each year in Australia, over 50 000 total hip replacement surgeries are performed. This is a 95% increase in the number of total hip replacement surgeries since 2002. The increased demand for hip replacement surgery is partly a result of Australia’s ageing population, which means that people are living for longer, resulting in their joints undergoing more strain. It is also a result of higher rates of obesity, and other lifestyle factors.

Why is the surgery performed?

A majority of total hip replacement surgeries are performed as a result of an osteoarthritis diagnosis. Other reasons the surgery is performed include rheumatoid arthritis, femur neck fractures, osteonecrosis, tumours and developmental dysplasia.

What does the surgery involve?

In a total hip replacement procedure, an orthopaedic surgeon replaces the damaged hip joint (both the ball and the socket) with an artificial prothesis. The surgeon may approach the surgery from different angles, including anteriorly, posteriorly or laterally.

What are the risks?

As with any operation, there are risks involved. Total hip replacement surgeries sometimes require revisionary surgery. Over the last 20 years, approximately 8.4% of total hip replacements undertaken for osteoarthritis have required revisionary surgery. The main reason revisionary surgery is required is due to periprosthetic joint infection, followed by dislocation/instability, fracture and loosening.

Some of the risks involved with hip replacement surgeries include:

  • Bleeding;
  • Infection;
  • Dislocation;
  • Infections;
  • Blood clots;
  • Leg length discrepancy;
  • Nerve injury;
  • Fractures; and
  • Ongoing pain and stiffness.

When is it negligent?

If the orthopaedic surgeon carried out the surgery without due skill and care which caused harm to the patient, the patient will be able to bring a case in negligence for the injuries they have suffered.


Nerve damage – where a patient develops a nerve injury such causing pain and altered sensation in their leg and the operation report reveals a nerve injury occurred intraoperatively the patient will be able to make a claim.

Leg length discrepancy – this is where the legs are different lengths post-surgery.  This can be difficult for the patient as the imbalance causes additional stress on other joints resulting in more pain.  If there is an actual discrepancy the patient will be able to make a claim.

Infection – infections are always a risk of surgery, negligence claims for infection usually relate to how an infection is managed and whether prompt and decisive action was taken.  Infections can cause difficult complications as they tend to attach to any artificial body parts which makes them particularly difficult to treat for hip replacement patients once the infection becomes established.

Blood clots  –blood clots in the legs otherwise known as a deep vein thrombosis are a serious complication of orthopaedic surgery.  They can occur due to a limb being immobile after surgery.  It is better to try and prevent this type of injury using blood thinning medications.  The complications can be very serious if the blood clot travels to the lung and causes a pulmonary embolism.  This can cause ongoing lung damage and can even travel to the brain causing a stroke.

Unnecessary surgery – hip replacement surgery is major surgery, and it is not always necessary to do it straight away.  Many surgeons observe their patients over several years and wait for the optimal time to perform the procedure.  Performing it prematurely can be seen as negligent likewise performing revisionary hip replacement surgery before the original surgery has settled down can also be viewed as negligent.

What is involved in a negligence claim?

  1. Have a free consultation non obligation consultation (in the office/ phone or zoom) with our team.
  2. We will advise you, if we think you have a case.
  3. If we think you do, we will collect your medical records and review them.
  4. We will instruct an expert doctor to comment on the care you were given.
  5. If the expert doctor agrees there was negligence, we will file court proceedings.
  6. We will claim financial compensation for you aimed at putting you back in the position you would have been in but for the injury – this includes money for pain and suffering, treatments expenses, wage loss and any inability to perform housework or gardening.

Is there a time limit in bringing a negligence claim?

Time limits apply to bringing a medical negligence claim. This ranges from 3 years from the date of injury, up to 12 years in some cases. It is important not to delay getting prompt advice if you suspect medical negligence.

Call or message our friendly, experienced team. We have offices in Erina on the Central Coast and Sydney’s CBD.

Jane Bulter – Remedy Law Group