For people with debilitating hip pain that is not relieved with other treatments, hip replacement surgery is an effective treatment option. However, hip replacement recovery may take several weeks or months.
If your aging parent is having this procedure, you may be wondering what hip replacement recovery will be like and how long it will take to heal
Surgery may be the most important and intense step in any treatment plan, but it is not the only one that carries serious weight and particular risks. The hip replacement recovery period following an orthopaedic surgery usually involves many important steps and processes that will determine your long-term health and mobility.
This is the case with total hip replacement surgery. Hip replacements have become a common procedure (more than 300,000 total hip replacement operations are performed annually in the United States); and, since the 1960s when these operations were first performed, the safety of hip replacement procedures has increased dramatically. The ultimate success of the surgery, however, will be determined by the success of the hip replacement recovery process.
The doctors and specialists at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute use the best methods and equipment available to promote a successful total hip replacement recovery; they will guide you through every step of the recovery process. However, there are steps for a healthy and smooth recovery that have to be taken independently.
While the procedure has become incredibly easier to perform, the recovery process still requires a significant amount of effort on the both the doctor’s and patient’s part. To help anyone through this process, we have devised a list of things you should be doing to ensure a complete and successful recovery.
Hip Replacement Recovery: What You Can Do to Improve Your Recovery
Most people who have hip replacement surgery experience dramatic pain relief and see significant improvement in their ability to perform activities of daily living, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. But it’s important to understand that hip replacement recovery can be lengthy. A successful hip replacement recovery will depend on your parent’s overall health before the procedure — and how well they follow the doctor’s instructions and rehab program after the surgery.
Your loved one will likely need help while healing. Some people may be able to recover from hip replacement surgery at home. Others may need to go to a rehab facility or may choose to recover at an assisted living community, where they can receive rehab services while getting 24-hour assistance and support with daily tasks such as bathing, walking, and cooking.
Practicing these five total hip replacement recovery tips can help you to have a smooth and successful recovery.
Get in a healthy exercise routine
Most hip replacement patients are able to walk within the same day or next day of surgery; most can resume normal routine activities within the first 3 to 6 weeks of their total hip replacement recovery.
Once light activity becomes possible, it’s important to incorporate healthy exercise into your hip replacement recovery program. Recommended activities include gradually increased walking and light household activities (sitting, standing, climbing stairs). Movement is essential to a healthy recovery.
Pay attention to diet and weight
Excess weight can put stress on your new hip prosthesis and increase wear and the risk of complication.
Maintaining a healthy body weight before and after your surgery can help to improve your recovery process and the ultimate lifespan of your prosthesis. Additionally, make sure to maintain a balanced diet during your hip replacement recovery.
Exercise to Promote Blood Flow
Certain exercises can help to promote blood flow and prevent clots. These include:
Regularly squeezing the thigh and calf.
Motion exercises for the legs that utilize full range of leg motions
Walking with or without the assistance of supportive devices (such as walker/cane)
Make household preparations Your mobility and ability to accomplish normal, daily tasks following your surgery will be strongly reduced. Prior to your surgery, make practical modifications to your house so that the things you’ll need will be accessible without excess movement. Additionally, make plans with friends, family, or caretakers to ensure that someone will be available to help with tasks like cooking, bathing, and running errands.
Taking careful precautions and putting intentional effort into your hip replacement recovery help to ensure a smooth and successful total hip replacement recovery. Keep these critical tips in mind as you prepare for your hip replacement surgery and the subsequent recovery period
Hip Replacement Recovery In The Hospital
Your loved one will likely stay at the hospital for two to three days after hip surgery. They’ll receive pain medication and an antibiotic to prevent infection. Most people also receive a blood thinner and wear compression boots while in the hospital to help prevent blood clots.
Your parent will be encouraged to stand and walk with assistance within 24 hours of the surgery. Being active soon after surgery builds muscle strength and helps improve circulation and prevent blood clots.
Physical therapy will start while your loved one is still at the hospital. A physical therapist will also develop a rehabilitation plan that your relative can continue to follow after they leave the hospital.
Hip Replacement Recovery at Home
You will need some help at home for anywhere from several days to several weeks after discharge. Before your surgery, arrange for a friend, family member or caregiver to provide help at home.
Preparing Your Home
The following tips can help make your return home more comfortable, and can be addressed before your surgery:
- Rearrange furniture so you can maneuver with a cane, walker, or crutches. You may temporarily change rooms (make the living room your bedroom, for example) to minimize the use of stairs.
- Place items you use frequently (phone, remote control, glasses, pitcher and glass, reading material and medications, for example) within easy reach so you do not have to reach up or bend down.
- Remove any throw rugs or area rugs that could cause you to slip. Securely fasten electrical cords around the perimeter of the room.
- Get a good chair—one that is firm and has a higher-than-average seat. This type of chair is safer and more comfortable than a low, soft-cushioned chair.
- Install a shower chair, gripping bar, and raised toilet seat in the bathroom.
- Use assistive devices such as a long-handled shoehorn, a long-handled sponge, and a grabbing tool or reacher to avoid bending over too far.
During your hip replacement recovery at home, follow these guidelines to take care of your wound and help prevent infection:
- Keep the wound area clean and dry. A dressing will be applied in the hospital and should be changed as often as directed by your doctor. Ask for instructions on how to change the dressing before you leave the hospital.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions on how long to wait before you shower or bathe.
- Notify your doctor immediately if the wound appears red or begins to drain. This could be a sign of infection.
Expect moderate to severe swelling in the first few weeks after surgery. You may also have mild to moderate swelling for 3 to 6 months after surgery. To reduce swelling, elevate your leg slightly and apply ice. Wearing compression stockings may also help reduce swelling. Notify your doctor if you experience new or severe swelling, since this may be the warning sign of a blood clot.
Take all medications as directed by your doctor. Home medications may include opioid and non-opioid pain pills, oral or injectable blood thinners, stool softeners, and anti-nausea medications.
Be sure to talk with your doctor about all your medications—even over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and vitamins. Your doctor will tell you which over-the-counter medicines are safe to take while using prescription pain medication.
It is especially important to prevent any bacterial infections from developing in your artificial joint. Some patients with special circumstances may be required to take antibiotics prior to dental work to help prevent infection. Ask your doctor if you should take antibiotics before dental work. You may also wish to carry a medical alert card so that, if an emergency arises, medical personnel will know that you have an artificial joint.
By the time you go home from the hospital, you should be eating a normal diet. Your doctor may recommend that you take iron and vitamin supplements. You also may be advised to avoid supplements that include vitamin K and foods rich in vitamin K if you are taking the blood thinner medication warfarin (Coumadin). Foods rich in vitamin K include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, liver, green beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, soybeans, soybean oil, spinach, kale, lettuce, turnip greens, cabbage, and onions.
Continue to drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol. You should continue to watch your weight to avoid putting more stress on the joint.
5 Hip Replacement Recovery Tips for Safe Healing
Prepare your home
Your parent may need to use a walker or a cane for a few weeks after surgery. If they’re recovering at home, you may need to rearrange furniture or remove rugs to accommodate the use of these devices.
If your parent needs to climb stairs to get to their room, you may want to temporarily move them to a different room on the ground floor. You will also want to make frequently used items — such as phones, remote controls, books, and medication — easily accessible.
While recovering, your loved one may need a raised toilet seat, shower chair, and grip bars.
Encourage your loved one to take medications as prescribed by the doctor, including pain medications. Discuss any medications your parent takes for other health conditions with their doctor — including over-the-counter drugs and supplements — to prevent drug interactions and keep them safe.
Eat for healing
Nutrition both before and after surgery is a key part of the healing process. Before the surgery, stock the fridge with healthy options such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean sources of protein like beans, nuts, and poultry. Ask the doctor if your loved one needs an iron supplement or other vitamins.
Plan and make meals ahead for easy and quick reheating or assembly. Soups, stews, salads, and sandwiches, or a simple of bowl of yogurt and berries are quick and easy options. Or consider meal service delivery options.
It’s important to tell your loved one to watch their weight. Excessive weight may put stress on their new joint.
Exercise is essential for a successful hip replacement recovery, especially during the first few weeks after the procedure. Encourage your loved one to move, but not to do too much too soon. Your parent should follow the physical therapy program as prescribed.
If your loved one needs more support than you can provide after a hip replacement surgery, there are rehab options to help them get better safely. Skilled nursing facilities offer short-term stays for seniors who need rehabilitation after surgery. Rehab services may also be offered at assisted living communities or at home in combination with home care.