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These 5 Things Can Cause Your Hip to Collapse 

Achy joints are all too common for American adults. According to the CDC, an estimated 30% of adults experience joint pain. If you're worried about hip pain you're experiencing, you might not know that common habits and conditions may cause your hip joint not only to hurt but to collapse, requiring a total hip replacement to fix the problem.

Hips collapse when the blood supply that nourishes the hip tissues becomes injured in some way – alcohol consumption, medications, trauma and even certain health conditions. Read on to find out what can cause your hip joint to collapse and what can now be done to reverse joint damage to prevent collapse, using stem cells—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What Causes the Hip Joint to Collapse

Doctor holds implant of the hip joint.

First a little anatomy: The hip joint is a ball and socket joint consisting of two bones. The thigh bone, or femur, forms the ball, and the pelvis forms the socket. Without good blood flow to carry nutrients to the joint, the hip joint collapses. This condition is called osteonecrosis of the femoral head, in which the ball portion of the joint is starved for blood, and collapses. (Another common name for this condition is avascular necrosis of the femoral head.) Read on to learn what conditions or habits can lead your hip to collapse.


Consuming Alcohol

drinking alcohol

Excessive alcohol use is a common cause for collapse of the femoral head. Alcohol damages the blood vessels and the micro-architecture of the bone, leading to eventual damage to the hip joint. Patients can prevent further damage to their hips by limiting their use of alcohol.

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Taking Steroids

Woman taking medication at home

High dose steroids are a common medication used to control an inflammatory disease, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or autoimmune disorder. Unfortunately, the steroid can lead to increased amounts of fatty cells within the femoral head, which ultimately impacts the blood supply. While some patients may be able to control their inflammatory diseases with other medications or lifestyle changes, many will have to continue their steroid medication to keep these processes at bay. Some of these patients may eventually require a total hip replacement.


Sustaining Trauma

Woman on a city street falling with a bicycle on the road and a man running hurrying behind.

A high impact trauma to the hip, such as a fracture or hip dislocation, can injure the blood vessels which provide nutrients to the hip joint. Sometimes, the injury is so severe that the body's natural healing mechanisms are not adequate to repair the blood vessel damage, and these patients develop avascular necrosis of the femoral head. In these instances, in which there was trauma to the hip, there is a high risk that the ball portion (femoral head) will collapse.

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Having Diabetes

Man taking blood sample with lancet pen indoors

Those with diabetes have trouble with circulation, because diabetes causes blood vessels to become fragile and easily damaged. In diabetes, the small vessels which supply nutrients to the hip joint may fail to deliver enough nutrients to the hip, and eventually the hip joint can collapse. Patients with diabetes can protect their hip joints by controlling their blood sugars and eating a diabetic diet.


Being Diagnosed With a Blood Disorder

Young attractive concentrated female scientist in protective eyeglasses, mask and gloves dropping a red liquid substance into the test tube with a pipette in the scientific chemical laboratory

Many patients suffer from blood disorders that effect the fluidity of blood (such as blood clots or sickle cell disease) which can lead to damage of the vessels which supply blood to the hip joint. When these vessels become clogged or clotted off, the blood supply to the ball (the femoral head) becomes damaged, which can cause the ball to collapse. Patients with blood disorders may be able to prevent some of this damage by staying well hydrated.

In many of these cases, once the blood supply to the hip is injured, the body is not able to naturally heal the blood supply on its own. Without intervention, there is a high likelihood that the hip will collapse.

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Keep Hips Healthy and Prevent Collapse With Stem Cells

Bone marrow transplant operation

Osteonecrosis of the femoral head is being treated with stem cell treatments. In a new procedure performed at Yale School of Medicine's academic medical practice, Yale Medicine, stem cells are being taken from the patient's pelvis (from bone marrow) and placed into the hip joint. The stem cells help new vessels grow into the hip joint to provide nourishment. This therapy can prevent the femoral head from collapsing.

The process of sampling the bone marrow, called harvesting, is conducted through a small minimally invasive procedure. The surgeon then processes the bone marrow to isolate the stem cells, which are special cells within a patient's bone marrow that have the ability to regrow blood vessels and repair the hip joint.

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When the Hip Collapses: Total Hip Replacement

Doctor points at a X-ray image of a hip implant.

Unfortunately, if the damage to the hip joint is caught too late, the hip may have already collapsed. In those instances, patients will require a total hip replacement. This procedure is when the damaged hip is replaced by metal, plastic and ceramic materials.

While patients are able to return to their normal activities after total hip replacement, the medical device has a limited lifespan for approximately 20 years, and the patient may eventually require additional procedures. That's why it's very important to try to avoid hip problems – and catch them early. So if you're experiencing hip pain now, see your doctor and get it checked out. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Daniel Wiznia, MD, is an orthopaedic specialist at Yale Medicine and assistant professor of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Yale School of Medicine. He focuses on developing novel stem cell treatments for osteonecrosis of the femoral head. He is an innovator of robotic total hip replacement and total knee replacement.

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