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‘Today’ Host Al Roker Says He Will Undergo Surgery for His “Deteriorating” Hip

Korin Miller
Photo credit: Al Pereira - Getty Images

From Prevention

  • Today host Al Roker revealed he will be absent from the show for the rest of the month after he undergoes hip replacement surgery.
  • Roker, 65, says his left hip has been “deteriorating” but that he’s not in terrible pain. He hopes to document his experience and return by the end of the month.
  • Doctors explain what hip replacement surgery is, the benefits of having one, and what recovery looks like.

Al Roker made a big announcement on Tuesday’s TODAY show: He’s planning to have hip replacement surgery.

“All of a sudden, I started feeling this twinge in my hip—and then my back was acting up,” the 65-year-old said. “It seems like my hip went fairly quickly.” Roker said he realized it was time to take care of things.

“In the last three months, my left hip has been deteriorating,” he explained. Roker plans to have a type of hip replacement called hip resurfacing on Wednesday. Roker, who has osteoarthritis, says he’s not in terrible pain. “It’s not like I’m crying at night, but, you know, it hurts,” he said.

Roker plans to return to the show by the end of the month, around September 30, as long as there are no complications—and he says he will document the whole thing to share on the show.

What is hip replacement surgery, exactly?

Backing up a second: Your hip is made up of a ball and socket joint that’s covered by smooth tissue that helps your bones glide across each other, called cartilage, explains Joseph J. Ciotola, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center. But that cartilage can wear away over time, leading to arthritis. “People get to the point where bone is rubbing on bone because they’ve lost their cartilage,” Dr. Ciotola says. “That’s very painful and can make someone feel very stiff.”

The surgery itself involves removing the arthritic surface of the hip and replacing it with a new socket and new ball, giving it a painless bearing in the joint, says Jay Patel, MD, a joint replacement surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Southern California. A socket reconstruction is done by putting a metal shell on the bone and locking a liner to the shell, Dr. Patel says. The ball is reconstructed by fixing a stem into the femur (the thick bone in your thigh) and attaching a new ball (made of either ceramic or metal) to the stem.

Hip resurfacing surgery, which Roker is having, removes less bone than a standard hip replacement, says Kamala Littleton, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Baltimore’s Mercy Medical Center. Instead of taking out the ball, a metal cap is put on the area where the cartilage has worn off. “It’s typically seen in patients under 55,” Dr. Littleton says. “It’s bone-sparing so that if you need another surgery later, you haven’t lost a lot.”

What are the benefits of having hip replacement surgery?

Comfort is a big one. “Hip replacement patients typically opt for surgery to reduce pain and improve function in the joint,” Dr. Patel. Having a hip replacement usually means a patient has less of a need for pain medication and can do everyday activities more comfortably. “Once the joint has healed, most people are able to perform activities of daily living and return to recreational hobbies pain-free,” Dr. Patel says.

Are there any risks of hip replacement surgery?

There are risks, but they’re pretty rare, Dr. Ciotola says. They include the risk of developing a blood clot, fracture, dislocation, or infection. “The surgery as a whole is very low risk,” he says.

What’s the recovery like?

Everyone recovers differently from surgery, but most hip replacement patients are usually up and walking the same day of surgery. “Most patients are discharged on the same day of surgery, or after a short stay in a surgery center or hospital,” Dr. Patel says. Patients might need to use a cane or walker for a bit and most will need to do some form of physical therapy to help get back their strength and balance. “Recovery times for most patients range anywhere from two to six weeks,” Dr. Patel says.

Over all, doctors say this is a pretty good surgery to have if your hip just isn’t what it used to be. “It’s one of the top surgeries performed to improve somebody’s quality of life,” Dr. Ciotola says.

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