Over 300,000 total hips replacements are performed in the United States each year. The main goal of hip replacement surgery is to improve a patient’s quality of life by relieving the pain associated with hip arthritis. It is among the most successful surgeries, with most patients returning to an active lifestyle. The success of your surgery will depend largely on how well you follow your orthopedic surgeon’s instructions.
Know your restrictions.
Most patients have hip precautions after a total hip replacement. The precautions are designed to keep the joint safe and avoid dislocation. Although dislocation is uncommon, most patients are asked to adhere to some restrictions for the first few months after surgery, when they are at the greatest risk. Even if you are able to walk with a walker, crutches or cane after surgery, you will need some assistance in your recovery. Pre-surgery planning will help streamline a safe and successful recovery at home. Here are some tips:
Know your exercise program.
- Consider adding safety bars in your bathroom or shower.
- Find the right chair to sit in during your recovery. A firm seat cushion with a firm back and two arms will make it easier to get up. It may also be necessary for your hip precautions.
- A raised toilet seat may be needed due to hip precautions and will be helpful when getting up from a lower toilet.
- Remove all loose carpets and make sure you have open walk ways that are free of electrical cords.
- If you have restrictions that include bending forward past 90 degrees, make sure items are within reach in your kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Hang your clothing in closets, make a basket with cosmetics on your bathroom counter and put frequently used kitchen utensils in higher cabinets/drawers.
- Stock up on household and foods. Freeze and prepare meals that are easy to heat.
Most people return home after a total hip replacement and follow a home exercise program. Although you are able to walk with an assistive device (walker, cane, crutches) at discharge, you are still recovering from surgery. It is not uncommon to feel tired and fatigued. Allow yourself plenty of time to sleep, as sleep is an important part of healing. Many people find it helpful to have assistance at home.
Know how to prevent complications after surgery and when to call your doctor.
- Have your support person attend a therapy session to learn how to assist you with exercises you can’t do independently.
- Have your support person learn how to apply support stockings and dressing changes, if necessary.
- Slowly increase your mobility in your home before walking outside to ensure you are walking safely and are not causing more swelling or pain. Your doctor may have Home Health see you for physical therapy. They can help you transition from the hospital to your home and guide you in your exercise program and daily living activities.
- Keeping your pain controlled will help you tolerate your exercise session and mobility. Pain pills are often needed to help control surgical pain. Applying ice to the surgical incision can also be helpful for pain and to prevent swelling.
Although complications are rare and hip recovery is often very routine, the success of your surgery will depend on how well you follow your doctor’s instructions. Know what to watch for and when to call your doctor’s office to report concerns. Learn how to care for your wounds at home, including dressing changes, shower privileges, and signs and symptoms of infection. Infections are usually caused by bacteria entering your blood stream. Call your doctor with:
- Persistent fevers over 100 degrees Fahrenheit orally.
- Shaking or chills.
- Increased redness, tenderness or swelling in the hip wound.
- Drainage from the hip.
- Change in pain with activity or rest.
Follow your surgeon’s instructions to reduce the risk of blood clots during your recovery. Take blood thinning medication as directed and wear your support hose, if ordered. Take short walks often and change positions to help with circulation. Report any signs of blood clots to your doctor immediately, including:
- Pain in your calf or leg unrelated to your incision.
- Redness or tenderness.
- New or increased swelling in your leg, calf or foot.
Any sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, pain with coughing or deep breaths can be a sign a blood clot has traveled to your lungs. If that is the case, call 911 to get to an emergency room for evaluation.