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Which Is Better? Hip Chairs or Lift Chairs After Total Hip Replacement Surgery?

Which Is Better? Hip Chairs or Lift Chairs After Total Hip Replacement Surgery?


A total hip replacement (THR), also referred to as a total hip arthroplasty (THA), is a major surgical operation that requires the removal of the natural joint and a complete replacement of the ball-and-socket joint. Due to the nature of the incision and the jumbling of muscle attachments, a THR requires recovery and complete modification of daily lifestyle and mobility for several weeks.

There are several incisional approaches that surgeons can use to perform the THR: posterior (back), anterolateral (front-side), anterior (front) and lateral (side). Specific hip precautions that need to be followed after surgery highly depends on the incisional approach. For example, the posterior approach usually requires the most precautions: no bending past 90 degrees, no crossing of the legs, and no pivoting in place on the operative foot. There are also specific ways to ambulate with a walker and to climb the stairs until the recovery time (4-6 weeks) is complete.

We will be focusing on how to safely sit after a THR, specifically a posterior THR in order to avoid dislocation, by using recommended hip and lift chairs.

What Are Hip Chairs?

Hip chairs are exactly what they are called, chairs that are designed for persons who have undergone THRs. Surgeons and therapists recommend that patients only sit in higher chairs that have cushions or seats that are angled forward so as to avoid getting stuck and dislocating the hip joint. Hip chairs oftentimes look like ordinary dining chairs, but come with adjustable seat angles and height adjustable legs.

What are Lift Chairs?

Lift chairs look like your typical recliner with bulky cushions and a foot rest. However, lift chairs come with a manual or electrical lift option in order to assist the user into a standing position. The lift feature opens up the hip angle, which is exactly what a patient needs in order to avoid dislocation or injury.


What Are The Benefits of Hip Chairs and Lift Chairs For Seniors After Total Hip Replacement Surgery?

Both the hip chair and the lift chair serve the same purposes when it comes to helping a patient post-THR. Both types of furniture keep the user seated on a secure and higher surface to ease standing transfers. Additionally, both seating surfaces open up the hip angle so as to maintain the 90-degree precaution and to prevent hip dislocation. Aside from hip angle, both are very beneficial for overall posture.


What Are The Distinct Differences between Hip Chairs and Lift Chairs For Seniors After Total Hip Replacement Surgery?

Even though there are some dynamic features in a hip chair, the overall frame is generally fixed. The important option for users is the adjustability of the seat angle in order to open up the hips while in sitting and during a transfer. Lift chairs offer more movement including opening up the hip angle, reclining the back, and propping up the feet. Depending on the model, lift chairs can provide endless sitting, assistive standing, and reclining positions.


A typical hip chair has a fixed position, so it would work well for persons with decent upright posture who can tolerate sitting up for any given period of time. A lift chair can be positioned upright, but does allow the user to fully recline if needed. Users with chronic health conditions with impaired mobility, besides the THR, often get great use out of a lift chair and can recline if they can’t tolerate sitting up too long.

What Are The Costs Differences Between the Hip Chair and Lift Chair?  ( Affordability, Durability, Warranties, etc )

Depending on the make and model as well as what additional or customized features a patient is looking for, hip chair prices can range anywhere between $100- $3,000 dollars out-of-pocket. Lift chairs also have a wide range in pricing from around $300 to $4,000 dollars depending on what company the patient purchases the chair from and what additional features they are looking for (i.e. bariatric, electric, removable chair covers, etc.). Both chairs can be very durable if used correctly (i.e. used for the intended purpose and if the weight capacity is matched correctly).

Medicare will provide coverage for a lift chair through a Medicare B plan or a Medicare Advantage (Plan C) Plan. Insurance coverage for a hip chair is spotty at best for either purchase or for rental. Since hip chairs are designed for short-term use, many insurance providers view hip chairs as luxury products rather than medically necessary equipment. Patients should consult directly with their insurance to see if coverage, even if partial, is allowed.

Which Ones Blends With Home Furniture Better or Looks Out of Place?

Both hip chair and lift chair models come in a wide variety of framing, fabric, and color. Patients can often choose a chair that blends in very well with the interior design of their home. One thing that patients should consider is how much space each type of chair will take up. Since lift chairs often have a full recline option, these chairs are likely to take up quite a bit of space. Consider measuring out your home prior to purchase.


How Long Do Hip and Lift Chairs Have to Be Used After Total Hip Replacement Surgery or Can They Be Used Long Term?

Realistically, seniors can use either chair for short-term or long-term purposes. Users who have bad hips (prior or after surgery) or who struggle with standing, but prefer to sit in a more upright position for the majority of the time, could use a hip chair for many years. Lift chairs do help patients post-THR, but they are designed for users with long-term illness and severe immobility.

How Easy or Difficult Is It For Seniors To Get On and Off  Hip or Lift Chairs?

The beauty of having the features to open up the hip angle of the user is that they are already situated in a partial standing position while sitting. This means that caregivers who wish to assist a loved one out of a hip chair do not have to take on the user’s full body weight. Lift chairs can bring the user to a full stand, so all the caregiver has to do is place the walker and be on standby to assist with standing balance.


So, which chair is better: the hip chair or the lift chair? The answer depends. If the patient is managing other medical complications causing immobility besides the THR, then the lift chair may be more suitable for their needs.

If the patient prefers a short-term seating option that offers a more rigid sitting position, then the hip chair is the way to go. Insurance coverage may be easier to obtain for a lift chair rather than a hip chair, and the hip chair will take up less space than the lift chair.

Patients and their loves ones need to assess their medical, home, and financial situation in order to make the best choice for their post-THR care.

About Samuel

Samuel is a physical therapist with over 20 years medical experience. He has extensive knowledge in functional rehabilitation in the acute care hospital and in-home care settings. He has spent most of his career helping seniors transition from hospital or rehab care to living independently at home. In his free time he likes to travel and read autobiographies.

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