The hip joint can develop arthritis over time, leading to a complete wear of the articular cartilage. When this point has been reached in the development of the disease, a total hip replacement is necessary to relieve hip pain and restore function by replacing the worn cartilage with an artificial bearing on both the pelvis and the femoral head.

Whenever the cartilage on the pelvic side is preserved (i.e. after a femoral neck fracture that cannot be repaired, for example) a hemiarthroplasty can be performed, in which the head of the femur is replaced but articulates with the native acetabular (pelvic) cartilage instead of an artificial bearing material as in a total hip replacement.

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