Recovering From Hip Replacement Surgery
Full recovery from hip replacement surgery involves hard work. Each of the precautions and exercises given after surgery is there for a reason. Patients with the best outcomes follow instructions and endure some limitations during recovery to ensure the very best results from their hip replacements.
- Short Term Recovery
- Precautions after Hip Replacement Surgery
- Long Term Recovery from Hip Replacement Surgery
- More Information
Short Term Recovery
Short term recovery is the time it will take for your body and your hip to initially heal from surgery. You will be dealing with pain during this phase, but medications can make the pain manageable. During short term recovery, your role is crucial.
While in the Hospital
While in the hospital, there will be activities to prevent blood clots from forming in your veins. There will also be prescribed exercises to help your joint heal properly, minimize scar tissue and strengthen your muscles to support the new joint. Your pain will be controlled via medications. Be sure to talk with your nurse or doctor if you feel the medications are not effective. Also be sure to take your medications in advance of each day’s physical therapy exercise. Pain relief will be essential for your active participation in the exercises. (See Pain management after surgery)
First Days at Home
Within a few days, you should be able to move well enough to leave the hospital and return home.
Physical therapy within the first six weeks continues to be very important. Physical therapy improves the motion of the hip and teaches you how to move about during recovery to allow your new joint to heal. Patients who comply with physical therapy exercises tend to recover much faster.
Be sure to discuss weight bearing with your physician and physical therapist. Their recommendations will depend on the type of implant and other factors in your situation.
If you have undergone cemented hip replacement, you can put some weight on the leg immediately using a cane or walker, and you should continue to use some support for 4 to 6 weeks to help the muscles recover.
If you have undergone uncemented hip replacement, your surgeon will give you specific instructions about the use of crutches or a walker and when you can put weight on the leg. By eight weeks, you should be weight bearing with only a little support. This protects the joint and gives the bone time to grow into the porous coating of the implant.
During recovery, you should sleep on your back with your legs slightly apart or on your side with an abduction pillow or regular pillows between your knees to prevent movement of your hips. Be sure to use the pillow for at least six weeks, or until your doctor says you can do without it.
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Precautions after Hip Replacement Surgery
**Note: These precautions apply to traditional posterior hip replacement only.
A number of important precautions will help prevent your new hip joint from dislocation (or popping out of place) while it heals. Your doctors and physical therapist will give you specific instructions, but here are a few of the most common precautions: Don't bend at the waist beyond 90 degrees. This means don’t bring you knee toward your chest or your chest toward your knee closer than a right angle.
To comply with the 90 degree rule, remember this:
- Don’t sit in low chairs, low stools, reclining chairs or soft couches.
- Don't bring your knee up higher than your hip.
- Don't lean forward while sitting or as you sit down.
- Don't try to pick up something on the floor while you are sitting.
- Don't reach down to pull up blankets when lying in bed.
- Don't turn your feet excessively inward or outward.
- Don't cross your legs at the knees for at least eight weeks.
- Don't stand pigeon-toed.
Your doctor will advise you when you can return to work and other physical activities. This will usually take place by three to six months from your surgery.
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Long Term Recovery from Hip Replacement Surgery
Hip replacements make it possible for patients to engage without pain in light activities, such as walking, doubles tennis and golf. However, more strenuous athletic pursuits - such as basketball, jogging, downhill skiing and other activities that put intense pressure on the hip - should be avoided. These activities add wear and tear on the components, can contribute to early wear out and can loosen the replacement joint. This can make it more likely that you could later require a revision surgery earlier.
There will be some precautions needed even after you have achieved full recovery and are back to your normal activities. You will need to be cautious about infections – for the rest of your life. You will need to alert your dentist or doctors that you have a joint replacement and likely take antibiotics before major dental or other invasive procedures (including urinary and cardiac stents and colonoscopies). This will help prevent infection from entering the body and settling in your artificial joint.
Also, be alert to minor scrapes and abrasions that can potentially contribute to joint infection. The best defense is to seek medical treatment early with any suspected skin or toe nail infection.
Your implants may also be detected in airport metal detectors. You may be given a card to carry in your wallet that describes the implants you received. This card may or may not be helpful when passing through airport security.
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