Squeaking Hip Replacements

Are Hip Replacements That Squeak a Problem?

Jeannot Olivet / Getty Images

Hip replacement surgery is a treatment for severe hip arthritis. During a hip replacement surgery, the worn out ball-and-socket hip joint is replaced with an artificial joint. Most commonly, artificial hip replacements are made of metal and plastic.  In a typical hip replacement surgery, metal parts are fixed to the bone of the femur (thigh bone) and pelvis.  Between the metal components is a plastic liner in the artificial socket of the replaced hip.

Unfortunately, these hip replacements can wear out over time. In an effort to reduce this wearing out of the hip replacement parts, there are other materials used less commonly to replace the hip joint. These so-called alternative bearing surfaces can either be all metal (no plastic), or have ceramic parts.

While these alternative bearing hip replacements may not wear out as quickly as a standard hip replacement materials, there are other concerns with these types of implants. One specific concern, especially with ceramic hip replacements, is that the artificial joint is prone to make a squeaking noise. The squeak from an artificial hip replacement may be an inconvenience, or it may be a sign of problems with the artificial joint.

What Causes a Squeaking Hip?

Squeaking from a hip replacement can be the result of different issues related to the implant, the surgery, or the patient.  The first step in evaluation of an abnormal noise from a replaced hip is to determine the cause.

  Without knowing the specific cause, it's impossible to determine the best treatment for the problem.

  • Implant Issues
    Squeaking is almost always a problem in patients who have an implant with an alternative bearing surface (something other than metal and plastic), and most commonly with ceramic hip replacements. Some specific implants have been more prone to squeaking, and in some cases it seems to be related to the size of the implant, with smaller implants squeaking more commonly.
  • Surgical Positioning
    When a hip replacement implant is positioned in your body, your surgeon must ensure it is appropriately aligned. Some studies have found that issues with implant alignment can lead to a tendency for squeaking.
  • Patient Factors
    Certain patient characteristics have been associated with squeaking, including being young, heavy, and tall. Patients who move their hip through a wider range of motion are also more likely to experience squeaking of their hip replacement.

Is a Squeak a Problem?

Most often, no. A squeaking hip is usually an inconvenience, and your doctor may be able to help you prevent squeaking by advising you on specific positions and activities to avoid. However, any squeaking should be reported to, and evaluated by, your doctor. Especially with ceramic hip replacements, there are reports of rare cases of squeaking being an early sign of an implant problem.

If the squeaking is determined not to be a problem with the implant, and the noise is tolerable, the problem is usually left alone.

If the implant is a problem, or if the squeaking cannot be tolerated, a second hip replacement surgery, called a revision hip replacement can be performed.  Revision hip replacements can be challenging, and highly invasive procedures.  While they can be very effective surgical treatments for potentially challenging problems, a revision hip replacement should only be performed when necessary.

What Should You Do?

If the implant is not a problem, best to not do anything different. Even if the noise is bothersome, performing a hip replacement revision surgery is a major undertaking and there are significant complications that can occur. That said, when there is an implant problem, early identification of the problem and surgical correction can make the revision surgery much less invasive and much more successful. When implant problems go unaddressed, the long-term result can be significantly complicated because of damage not only to the implants but also the surrounding bone and soft-tissue. If the implant is found to be causing a problem and revision surgery is recommended, then getting this taken care of sooner rather than later can help lower the chance of complications.


Walter WL, et al. "A Review of Squeaking Hips" J Am Acad Orthop Surg, Vol 18, No 6, June 2010, 319-326.

Continue Reading