Traumatic Arthritis

What is Traumatic Arthritis

As the name suggests, traumatic arthritis is a form of arthritis caused by an injury to the joint. The injury may be a result of a road traffic accident, a sporting injury, a dislocation or a bad fall.

A serious hip injury can lead to a hip replacement surgery in one of two ways. Firstly where an injury gives rise to traumatic arthritis which in turn causes sufficient damage to the join that a hip replacement is necessary or, where the trauma is so great e.g. a hip fractures that a hip replacement needs to be peformed immediately and no form of arthritis is involved.

This page discusses the arthritic route.

Causes and Risks

The traumatic injury may cause damage to the cartilage which may be "bruised" or fragments may be torn away from the bone. These small pieces will not heal and will need to be removed surgically as they can cause further damage and interfere with the functioning of the joint.

man on crutches

Arthritic symptoms may not appear for many years after the injury is sustanined.

Cartilage is not good at healing itself. When bits of it are lost the resulting gaps are filled with scar tissue which does not provide the same smooth surface as the original cartilage. It is also not able to weight-bear to the same extent.

Fractures to the hip may change the way the joint works as do injuries to the ligaments or muscles which surround it. This may lead to a change in the alignment of the joint or to an unstable joint. Either way there will be more pressure placed on to parts of the joint which will then start to wear away. This sort of damage leads to arthritis.

Another possible outcome of such joint injuries is avascular necrosis.


The most common symptom is pain in the groin area during weight-bearing activity. A limp may develop. There may be some loss of movement, which makes it difficult to do simple, everyday tasks such as putting on socks or reaching low cupboards. As the condition worsens the pain may be present even when non-weight bearing.

Traumatic Arthritis Diagnosis

In order to distinguish between other forms of arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis the doctor will need to know about any accidents involving your hip over the past five years.

One other diagnostic sign is the presence of pain and wear in a single joint. Other forms of arthritis usually affect more than one joint.

X-rays may be taken but it is normally a MRI that is used to determine the extent and type of damage to the joint.

Traumatic Arthritis Treatment

Non-surgical options 

As with all forms of osteoarthritis the early stages may best be treated non-surgically by: -

shock absorbing shoes
  • losing weight (to relieve pressure on the hip joint),
  • physiotherapy (eg to increase the range of movement)
  • exercise (low impact)
  • shock-absorbing footwear
  • supplements such as glucosamine
  • anti-inflammatory medication

Surgical options

These will include all the options open to people with osteoarthritis including hip replacement, hip resurfacing and hip osteotomy.

Related Links: 

Hip Osteotomy. 
Hip Resurfacing 
Hip Pain Relief

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