Many times, patients wait until pain becomes unmanageable before they are ready for a hip replacement. While we don’t recommend waiting that long, we understand the gravity of this decision. Many of our patients are active and athletic, making the decision that much harder. The fear that the hip replacement will take them out of their sports looms large in their minds. However, once a patient decides it’s time to take that step they are ready to charge forward! In fact, 4.7 million patients in the US have had a total knee arthroplasty, and 2.5 patients in the US have had total hip arthroplasty.
The goal following a hip replacement is to get back to a higher quality of life, but without the pain they had before. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) suggests that modifications should be made as they resume their normal activities in order to keep their hips safe.
So, what does happen immediately before and following a hip replacement procedure?
You will need help! So, plan ahead… It will take you several weeks or longer before you can handle being independent. You will need to pre-stage your home. If your bedroom isn’t on your main floor, but you have a room you can use temporarily, set it up for sleeping and avoid those stairs. Put all items you use regularly use within reach so that you don’t strain by reaching for something. Clear out extra furniture, move cords out of the way and put away any loose rugs that you might catch.
If possible, put in a bathtub gripping bar, shower chair and raised commode seat, and get helpful devices like a grabbing tool so you won’t have to bend.
Your Hospital Stay:
You will likely be in the hospital around 1-4 days. During your hospital stay you will have to re-learn and master everyday activities that you may not have thought about. Climbing in and out of bed safely, using the restroom and showering. You might not have had to use a cane or walker, but you will need to master that before you can leave.
Your medical team will describe the possible complications that may occur after you leave. You will have to be alert for the warning signs of infection or a blood clot. Your discharge instructions will be specific and will cover care for your wound.
Once You Are Home:
Don’t forget your home therapy! The exercises you are prescribed will expedite your safe recovery. Sometimes you will need a home nurse if it appears unsafe to go directly home without a skilled nurse.
Be alert for the signs of blood clots and infection, and if anything points to a problem don’t wait – call your physician immediately. Some swelling is normal and can last months. You will be given instructions on wearing your compression stockings, ice for your wounds, antibiotics, and your diet. You will need to drink many fluids – but limit or eliminate alcohol and coffee.
Talk to Your Doctor:
Each do and don’t depends on the surgical technique your doctor used. Your orthopedic practice and your physical therapist, will provide a list. In general, precautions cover things like crossing your legs, seating position, reaching, knee height and bending.
Everyday Health cites a study regarding the role of physical therapy following hip replacement. After evaluating the progress of two groups of patients at one month and again six months after surgery, researchers concluded that the group using home exercise programs fared as well as the individuals undergoing formal outpatient physical therapy. Typical home programs include gait training, walking, strengthening thigh muscles, standing on one leg, side-lying for muscles near the hip and climbing stairs.
If you’re like most patients, you’ll find it a huge relief to resume physical activities you could no longer do before surgery due to pain!