Hip replacement surgery can sound scary, but it’s actually a very common and successful procedure. Do you know what to expect if you or someone you love has a hip replacement scheduled?
It’s much easier to face a major medical procedure if you know what to expect afterwards. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to be ready for the procedure, including aftercare and recovery.
Keep reading to learn what happens after hip replacement surgery!
What Is Hip Replacement Surgery?
Hip replacement surgery isn’t nearly as scary as it may sound. In this procedure, a doctor will remove a hip joint that’s causing pain and other issues, and replace it with new, artificial joint. The new, artificial joint is usually made of plastic and metal.
Hip replacement surgery is a great choice if other treatments to manage pain haven’t been effective. The surgery makes walking and other movements much easier, relieving pain and allowing patients to resume normal activities.
What Is a Hip Replacement Procedure Like?
Traditional hip replacements tend to be more invasive, which leads to a longer recovery time – although the procedures are still overwhelmingly successful. Newer types of hip replacements can be minimally invasive, though, using a smaller incision.
In standard surgery, the patient is put under general anesthesia, which puts them in a deep sleep and allows their muscles to relax completely. The patient feels no pain and isn’t at all conscious while the surgery is happening. Sometimes, a spinal anesthetic is given instead.
Then, the doctor makes an incision along the hip and moves the muscles aside to see the hip joint. A saw is used to cut the thigh bone so the ball part of the hip joint can be removed.
Next, the doctor attaches the artificial joint in its place, using cement or another material to attach the thigh bone to the artificial joint.
The doctor also preps the remaining part of the hip bone by removing any excess cartilage that might cause problems. The new socket part is put in its place, and the new ball attached to the thigh bone can be inserted. If there is excess fluid, it will be drained before the muscles are reattached and the incision gets closed.
Today, most hip replacements use this traditional technique, with an 8- to 10-inch incision. However, some doctors now use minimally invasive surgery instead. These procedures use just one or two cuts that are 2 to 5 inches in length.
The procedure is otherwise the same, but the incisions are smaller, which some patients prefer.
What Happens After a Hip Replacement?
After the procedure is done, what happens next?
The doctor will provide specific guidelines for you to follow. However, there are some general things you can always expect after hip replacement.
With minimally invasive surgery, you might have a shorter recovery time. However, this guide will focus on the more common traditional procedures.
Doing exercises can help you recover, and might even be a necessary part of your recovery. A physical therapist will help you with these exercises.
It’s important to resume activity soon after the procedure. Some patients even start walking a bit on the same day as the surgery.
Usually, physical therapy starts on the day following the procedure. You’ll need to see a physical therapist for about two months after the surgery. They’ll also show you exercises that you’ll need to do at home to make a full recovery.
Occasionally, you’ll spend some time in a rehab center after being discharged from the hospital, but most of the time you’ll be able to go home. No matter what, you’ll need to stay active in order to recover. This includes doing the exercises your physical therapist tells you to do, and walking regularly.
Plan to do about half an hour of exercises every day. When you keep up with this part of the process, you’ll recover faster by increasing circulation, improving your strength, and regaining your hip movement.
At first, your exercises will be mild, involving gentle movements. You might do leg raises, knee bends, and ankle rotations.
After you complete these simple exercises, you’ll soon be able to do more. You might get your exercise by playing some low-impact sports, such as golfing, swimming, or cycling.
You might need to modify some of these activities so they don’t cause too much wear on the new hip. For example, you’ll probably have to stick to walking instead of running for a while.
You can generally start driving again about 2 to 8 weeks post-surgery.
How long it takes depends on a few factors. First, it’s important that you’re no longer taking narcotic drugs to manage your pain. You’ll also need to have your normal reflexes, and have enough stamina to drive safely.
If the surgery is on your left hip, you can usually start driving sooner than if it’s on your right hip. Your right leg is used on the car’s pedals, so it needs to be stronger in order for you to drive safely.
You’ll also need to wait longer if your car has a manual transmission. If you have an automatic transmission and the surgery was on your left hip, you can start driving in as little as 2 weeks.
3. Blood Clot Prevention
One of the risks following hip replacement surgery is a blood clot. You’ll need to take some steps to prevent this dangerous medical situation.
The precautions might include taking a blood thinning medication. Your exercises and movement are also an important part of preventing blood clots. Elevating your feet and wearing compression stockings also helps prevent clots from forming.
You’re at the highest risk of getting a clot in the first 2 to 10 days after the surgery. However, the risk continues for about 3 months after that.
Finding the Right Care
After your hip replacement surgery, you just need to get the right care and take a few precautions. If you follow these steps, you’ll have a smooth, easy recovery.
Looking for a great physical therapist to help? Contact one of our locations today.