After your hip replacement
Congratulations on your new hip! Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve suffered with hip pain for quite some time and you’re getting ready to take a major step towards improving your quality of life. The goal of a hip replacement is to reduce pain and stiffness in a damaged or arthritic hip joint and help a patient return to a previous level of function. You should not expect to do things you never could, but you should plan on doing many of the things you loved but had to stop due to hip pain.
There are two main types of hip replacements: cemented and non-cemented. The cemented replacement uses a medical cement to adhere the ball and socket to your bone and allows for immediate weight bearing, in most cases. The non-cemented replacement relies on your own bone to form a bond with the rough surface of the replacement joint. The non-cemented approach is used in younger, more active patients and usually requires a period of non-weight bearing after surgery. Regardless of which type of replacement you have, you’ll likely spend just a few days in the hospital after surgery; then, you may go to a rehabilitation center or receive home or outpatient therapy.
Although the hip pain you had become accustomed to might be gone, you should expect post-operative pain and some bruising. The incision site may be closed with staples or stitches (this can be sore for a few days and itch as healing begins). Often, the incision site is covered to prevent clothing from tugging at it. The staples or stitches are commonly removed two weeks after surgery. Pain medications will be made available to you, but be aware that they can often cause constipation, sedation and confusion. You should let your health care provider know if any of these become an issue.
Blood clot prevention is a major part of post-hip replacement care. Injections of a blood thinner or a pill form may be used. Also, snug stockings are used to help control swelling and prevent clots.
After a hip replacement you’ll be reminded of a few basic precautions to prevent a hip dislocation:
- Don’t flex your hip more than 90 degrees (for example, don’t bring your knees to your chest or try to bend to the floor).
- Don’t turn your knees or ankles inward or outward.
- Don’t cross your legs.
A trapezoid-shaped pillow may be placed between your legs to help maintain a proper position. A raised toilet seat and extra-long shoe horn can make all these things easier.
A physical therapist will show you ways to get moving and start strengthening. You will likely start walking with a walker, and the therapist will advance you as you progress. An occupational therapist will teach you ways to get back to your activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, toileting and maybe even cooking. The occupational therapist will also help you strengthen your upper body so you can use your arms for added support while you heal. A physiatrist (rehabilitation physician) will follow your progress and make recommendations as you go along.
When it’s time to go home, have a family member remove loose rugs and electrical cords that might lead to tripping at home. Your therapists can help you obtain any special equipment that you might need, such as a raised toilet seat. You will need to keep your follow-up appointments with your orthopedic surgeon and follow any instructions that he or she gives you. You should also maintain your hip precautions and avoid any high-impact activity, like running, unless you doctor advises you otherwise. Good luck!