After Hip Replacement

Hip replacement surgery is performed to replace parts of a diseased hip joint with an artificial prosthesis. The goal of hip replacement is to eliminate pain and return you to your normal activities. You can help in recovery and improve the outcome of the procedure by following certain precautions and changing the way you carry out your daily activities.

After the surgery, you may experience pain and swelling, which can be controlled with medication that your doctor will prescribe. You are discharged from the hospital once you have sufficient pain control and can perform basic activities on your own, such as getting in and out of bed, going to the bathroom and walking with an assistive device such as crutches or walker. The majority of patients can be safely discharged directly home after surgery, even those who live alone. Certain healthy, motivated patients may have their surgery performed on an outpatient basis. In rare cases, you may need to be transferred to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation center.

On reaching home, it is very helpful to have a joint replacement “coach” (family member, friend, relative or other caregiver) to assist you with your activities for a few weeks. Taking care of someone following hip replacement surgery requires compassion, awareness and patience. Your joint replacement coach can help by:

  • Providing encouragement and emotional support
  • Having a clear understanding of your medication and ensuring they are administered in a timely manner
  • Assisting you with household chores, paperwork and traveling your appointments
  • Keeping emergency numbers ready
  • Helping and motivating you to perform your rehabilitation exercises
  • Ensuring that furniture is rearranged so as not to interfere with your movement and cause falls.
  • Placing items that you use frequently can be placed easily within reach.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • A shower chair or gripping bar may be helpful in the bathroom.
  • Make use of long shoehorns, long-handled sponges, and other devices that can help you reach objects without bending.
  • You should sleep with a pillow between your legs.
  • Your doctor will advise you on correct sleeping positions.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry. Your doctor will let you know when you can shower or bathe.
  • Swelling may be present for 3 to 6 months following hip replacement and can be controlled with ice and elevating your legs.
  • Formal physical therapy may not be necessary after hip replacement. Walking, stationary bicycling and swimming are good exercises you can do on your own.

You and your caregiver must be aware of the signs of infection (drainage from the wound and worsening pain, swelling, redness) or blood clot formation (leg swelling that does not improve with elevation). If you have concerns about blood clots or infection, please contact your surgeon immediately. You are strongly discouraged to use the emergency room, and urgent care center, or your primary care physician for issues related to your surgery.

You can usually return to driving once you have adequate pain control, strength and reflexes, and require no narcotic pain medications. Your doctor will decide on this and advise you regarding other activities, work and sexual activity depending on your condition and progress with therapy.

Click on the topics below to find out more from the orthopaedic connection website of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.