Following on from last week’s article where we compared the Posterior and the Direct Anterior approaches to hip replacement, we now discuss important information about how best to take care of yourself post-surgery, both in hospital and when you are recovering at home. It is also important to understand any complications following surgery so you can reduce your risk, as well as understand ways you can help speed up your recovery.
Take an active part in your own recovery
After your hip replacement there will be a period of recovery, both in hospital and then for a longer period in the comfort of your home.
Whilst returning to normal activities is highly likely and probable, due to the success of most hip replacement procedures these days, there is a process to follow and you will need an element of patience.
Taking an active part in your own healing process, by understanding and managing your own expectations, as well as following best practice guidelines, will help to ensure your new hip remains safe whilst you get back on your feet.
Which approach your doctor takes for your hip replacement may also have an effect on the recovery time and there may be certain advice specific to your case that you need to adhere tho.
Read our Part 1 article which details various approaches to hip replacement, to familiarise yourself with the main options.
Also read our Part 2 article, comparing the Posterior and Direct Anterior approaches to hip replacement, including a free download comparison table.
Continue reading as we look in more detail at the recovery process following hip replacement in our Part 3 of a 3 part series this month on hip replacement.
After your hip replacement, there will be a requirement to stay in hospital until your doctor can assess that you are able to do basic tasks on your own. Taking care of yourself, with minimal support will be the sign that you can be discharged and can continue your recovery at home.
Basic tasks to demonstrate may include:
- Being able to eat and drink
- Use the bathroom
- Get in and out of bed
- Walk with a device such as a cane, crutches or a walker
- Being able to climb up and down a couple of stairs using your assistive device
- Performing home exercises that are necessary to your recovery
- Change the dressing on your wound where the incision was made
It will also be important that your pain levels are manageable.
Also, it will be vital before you are discharged that you understand any precautions that could hinder your healing or cause injury.
A hospital stay is typically between 1 day and 4 days, depending on the nature of your hip replacement. One advantage of your doctor using a procedure like the Direct Anterior approach (DAA) is that your hospital stay is likely to be just 1-2 days. For other methods the average is 3-4 days.
Which method of hip replacement is most suitable for you will be discussed with your doctor though, as not all patients are suitable for DAA.
The risks associated with total hip replacements are low, however, with any major operation there is an element of risk and complications can arise following procedure.
Complications typically would include infection or blood clots.
Understanding these complications, and warning signs, in advance is important. The nurses will be monitoring them whilst you are in hospital. However, it is your responsibility to continue when you return home.
Warning signs of infection, may include:
- Persistent high fever
- Redness or tenderness around your hip
- Drainage from the wound in your hip
- Increasing levels of pain, even if resting
Warning signs of a blood clot, may include:
- Pain in your leg or calf, not related to the incision
- Redness or tenderness around your knee
- Swelling of your thigh, calf, ankle or foot
If you experience a shortness of breath or sudden chest pain then this requires urgent attention as it could signal that a blood clot has travelled to your lungs. It is rare but important to understand that it can occur.
Recovering at home
It is useful before your operation to prepare your home so that when you return from hospital you have an easier time adjusting. Seeking help from family, friends and neighbours is also useful so you don’t feel isolated during your recovery period.
Recovery time at home is typically at least a few weeks but does vary depending on:
- the approach used for your hip replacement
- your own unique case
- your weight and general health
4 Important factors for your home care
(1) Caring for your wound
It will be a requirement for you to care for your wound following surgery. Keep the wound clean and dry and ensure you know how to change the dressing. Ensure to follow instructions on when you should take your first shower and notify your doctor immediately if you notice anything unusual such as redness or drainage.
(2) Watch for swelling
There may be swelling from your hip down following surgery, which may last 3-6 months. Elevate your leg slightly to reduce swelling, or apply ice. Compression stockings may also be advised by your doctor. Some swelling is normal but severe swelling is not, so keep in contact with your doctor if anything at all seems unusual.
Medication may be prescribed by your doctor to help your recovery. This may include pain relief, blood thinners, laxatives or antibiotics, to reduce any risk of infection in your new joint. It is important to speak with your doctor about any over-the-counter drugs, medications and supplements, including vitamins.
A medical alert ID bracelet or card may be wise to carry with you in the months following your surgery.
(4) Diet and supplementation
Iron and vitamin supplements may be recommended by your doctor. However, you may also be advised to avoid vitamin K supplements and foods that are high in this vitamin, if you are taking specific blood thinners.
Coffee and alcohol should be limited and maintaining a healthy weight will help ensure you don’t put too much stress on the joint.
Keep an eye on our blog for a bonus Part 4 this month!
Returning to normal activities following hip replacement.