Hip Replacement: Preparation & Recovery
The ins and outs of your hip replacement timeline. Find out what to expect pre and post surgery
Written by Orthopaedic Patient Healthcare Adviser, miss Steffie Watts , BN (Hons)
Published: Tuesday, 15 June 2021
A Timeline of Your Hip Replacement Surgery
Hip replacement surgery is an increasingly common procedure. It provides life-changing results that allow patients to lead a more active life. As with any surgery, it’s completely normal to have some questions about what to expect during your recovery.
To help answer these queries, we’ve put together a guide of what to expect in the days and weeks after your procedure.
Lead up to surgery
You’re well acquainted with your Medbelle Patient Care Adviser (PCA), you’ve selected the best surgeon for you, and are counting down the days till the old hip is out, and the new hip is in.
Here’s your pre-surgery checklist:
Travel to and from the hospital:
- Pre-arranging transport will make this process a lot easier and smoother (especially when you are on your way home with your new hip)
- Public transport and a brand new hip don’t go so well together, so try to have family members, friends or a taxi organised to take you home.
Overnight bag for up to 5 nights:
- Prepare a bag with supplies for you to last up to 5 nights
- Make sure you have any necessary creature comforts to make the first few days of recovery at the hospital feel closer to home
- Some of our previous patients brought pyjamas, slippers, books and even their favourite pillow!
You will also need to attend a pre-operative assessment with your surgeon to make sure you are fit as a fiddle and ready to go!
And as always, your PCA will be with you every step of the way and will help you make sure your i's are dotted, and t’s are crossed before the big day.
Day of Surgery
Arriving for surgery isn’t so different from catching a flight.
The first thing to do is check in.
You’ll receive an admission letter - just like a boarding pass - a week or so before your surgery from the hospital. This document states the time you need to arrive at the hospital to check-in for your surgery, making sure you have plenty of time to beat the traffic.
Once you’re settled in, you’ll meet your ‘flight crew’, also known as the nurses who will help prepare you for your surgery.
When you’re set and ready for take-off, your 'pilot', the surgeon, will briefly talk you through the ‘flight plan’ of your surgery before take-off.
Take-off is a little different, but after meeting with your surgeon, you will be taken into the operating theatre and given anaesthesia.
Because of the general anaesthesia, you won’t remember the surgery version of take-off or your flight. Lucky for you, you get to sleep through the whole flight.
Your flight lands when you wake up from anaesthesia. Et Voila, you have a new hip!
Immediately after surgery, you will wake up in the recovery room before moving to your private room, where you will be for most of your hospital stay.
You might have a drainage tube to remove any fluid that will naturally collect around your hip.
You will likely feel some pain at this point, but your nurses will be standing by with pain medication to help. You might also receive some blood thinners to prevent clots.
All of these elements are entirely normal and aim to make your immediate recovery as easy as possible. Lying on your back and even having a pillow between your legs to help keep your hip in the right position will help you be comfortable.
You'll also have a large dressing on your leg to protect the surgical wound. Again, your flight crew will be available to you
1-2 Days After Surgery
After a night in your comfy hospital bed, it's time to get moving! First, you’ll start to work with a physiotherapist who will help you get back on your feet.
There will be lots of movements that will feel funny or impossible after your surgery - this doesn’t last forever! However, your physiotherapist will teach you exercises that will help to strengthen your hip muscles, and you’ll be walking with the aid of a walker or crutches in no time.
You will also learn how to bend and sit to avoid damaging your new hip.
Initially, you will likely experience some level of discomfort and experience some swelling, but this will reduce over time. By this time, you’ll be able to eat solid food again, and you can start to take pain relief pills instead of through an IV. Then, back to normal, one day at a time!
3-4 Days After Surgery
If you’re feeling up to it, it's time to go home a few days after surgery.
You won’t be able to drive for up to 6 weeks, so make sure you have a designated driver to bring you home and help you with your everyday tasks and errands for a while. This can be anything from making a cup of tea to putting on socks to feeding the cat. Every extra pair of hands helps!
The exercises your physiotherapist gives you are an important part of your recovery as they help you get the most out of your new hip! Therefore, you must continue doing them as you were instructed by your physiotherapist as often as prescribed. Doing these as recommended helps heal the muscles around your new hip and will help you gain a full range of motion sooner than later.
Your PCA will get in touch with you to see how you are recovering and hear about any progress you've made so far.
If you have any questions for your surgeon or about any part of your recovery, your PCA is the perfect person to ask. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with them.
4-10 Days After Surgery
Now that you’re home, it’s important to make sure that your incision is kept clean so that it can heal quickly and well.
For a faster healing process, avoid getting the area wet or keeping it submerged until the wound completely closed and free from scabs. That means no swimming or baths for a few weeks.
If you do get your incision wet during a shower, for example, do not scrub or touch the incision directly while cleaning yourself.
It's also crucial you thoroughly dry it right after by gently patting the area with a clean towel. Avoid rubbing the area with the towel (not only would this likely hurt a fair bit, but it will also increase your risk of infection).
Also, it's important to avoid using creams or lotions on the area surrounding your incision, as these can irritate the skin and add unwanted moisture that can lead to complications.
To ease pain, it may help to use an ice pack for 10-15 minutes when required. However, it is very important to follow your surgeon’s specific post-op instructions directly.
Also, don’t forget to continue doing your exercises from the physiotherapist! We want to make sure you have full and safe use of your hip!
10-14 Days After Surgery
All surgeries like these need stitches to help the incision heal - in many cases, the stitches will dissolve after a period of time (cool, right!?). But sometimes dissolvable stitches won’t be used, in which case you’ll need another trip back to the hospital to have your stitches removed.
Your pain levels will have reduced by this point, and you should have some range of movement in your new hip. Of course, you won’t be back to working normally, but this is a chance to show off your progress!
As always, your PCA will be in touch to check in on you throughout this period to make sure you’re feeling supported. Your PCA will also arrange your follow-up appointments with the surgeon if you haven’t already done so.
3-6 Weeks After Surgery
Progress on top of progress on top of progress!
3 weeks post-surgery will see you back to doing most light activities around the house and will give you some independent mobility.
By week 6, you’ll be back behind the wheel if you drive. It’s also often possible to return to office-based work by this time. However, if your job involves any lifting, it’ll be a few more weeks before your hip is up to it.
That being said, everyone recovers differently. It’s best to speak to your surgeon or physiotherapist to decide when is best for you to go back to your normal activities.
Your Medbelle PCA will be with you through every step of your recovery (no matter how fast or slow) to make sure you have exactly the care you need.
10-12 Weeks After Surgery
And here you are, more than 2 months on from your surgery - where does the time go?
The swelling will have eased, the pain will be minimal (if not entirely gone), and you’ll be feeling almost back to normal again.
By this time, you'll probably feel comfortable enough to start your regular activities up again.
13 Weeks & Beyond
For your first year with your new hip, you’ll continue to have follow-up appointments with your surgeon - just to make sure that you and your new hip are doing well!
Want to learn more or have questions? Speak to a Medbelle Patient Care Adviser today and get answers.
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