Hip replacement, also known as total hip arthroplasty, is a procedure that removes arthritis to relieve pain, improve mobility, and restore function. Over the years improvements in surgical techniques, equipment, implants, and post-operative care have made the healing process much quicker and easier than you might expect.
Here is a brief overview of the recovery process.
Short-Term Hip Replacement Recovery
Surgery is performed with assistance of either general anesthesia or an epidural catheter in the operating room to make you comfortable. Multi-modal pain control includes oral and IV medications as well as temporary nerve blocks. This combination allows you to get out of bed on the same day as surgery and begin mobilization with physical therapy. Earlier mobilization and an accelerated recovery process decrease the length of stay in the hospital and builds confidence in using your new joint replacement.
You’ll begin by dangling your legs off the bed, then standing, and taking a few steps at a time. Starting out with a walker, you’ll likely progress to crutches or a cane depending on your pre-operative physical condition and other factors. Our therapists will discuss your home layout and the type of assistance available to you when you leave the hospital to develop a personalized plan with goals to meet prior to discharge. They’ll show you safe techniques and positions to avoid during recovery. Our care coordinators will discuss available option for vising nursing and home therapy. We’ll make all the arrangements for you so you can focus on recovery. A short stay at rehab is occasionally helpful, but we make every effort for you to be safe and comfortable going directly home when you leave the hospital.
When hip replacement began many years ago, patients spent several weeks in the hospital. Over time we’ve safely shortened the time in the hospital as patients tend to do better when they can quickly get back to their home environment and normal routine. Today most patients will stay just one to two nights in the hospital after their hip replacement. After you get home we are always just a phone call away day or night to answer questions or help as needed.
Depending on the type of skin closure, most patients can shower as soon as they get home and sutures will dissolve on their own. Occasionally staples or non-absorbable sutures are required witch are removed 10-14 days after surgery by a visiting nurse or in our clinic. Once you go home, you will continue with physical therapy for roughly six weeks.
At-Home Healing from Hip Replacement Surgery
After surgery your soft tissues will need to heal so your physical therapist will teach you modified techniques to manage the activities of daily living. He or she will give you specific instructions which may be different depending on whether your hip replacement is done through an anterior, lateral, or posterior incision. Your surgeon and therapist can discuss specific guidelines.
We’ll also give you information on how to care for your incision and warning signs to be aware of.
Each day will be a little better. If you do too much one day, you’ll be sore the next. In general its okay to push through discomfort, but avoid working past the point of sharp pain. By two weeks you can expect to be walking longer distances, perhaps up to a mile or more.
Long-Term Hip Replacement Recovery
Full recovery from hip replacement surgery usually takes about three to six months, but it may be less, depending on your age and overall health. Below are some general guidelines for what to focus on in your recovery. Keep in mind there may be overlap in the phases and some may be ready to move forward at a quicker pace.
- Phase I (day 1 to 1 month postop) – acute post-operative; mainly concentrating on walking correctly and doing some simple exercises.
- Phase II (1 month to 4 months postop) – stretching exercises to regain hip flexibility and range of motion, gentle strengthening
- Phase III (3 months to 1 year postop) – strengthening exercises
Remember you body needs time to heal. Even after healing is complete, you may have to modify your workout routine. Some high-impact physical activities may be too stressful on the joint, causing wear and tear that requires revision surgery.
Many hip replacement patients are able to resume their favorite activities, including skiing, biking, golf, basketball, and sexual activity. Before you do so, however, you will need to talk with your surgeon and your physical therapist to learn modified techniques that will help protect your new hip.
Replacing your hip will make it possible for you to engage in your normal daily activities much more easily. It also will reduce or even eliminate your pain.
We specialize in sports medicine and orthopedic surgery to address a variety of physical challenges. Contact us today to learn more about hip replacement surgery and recovery.