The journey to a full recovery from a hip replacement operation may be long and you may have a lot of expectations in mind on what happens along the way. While each case is different, we might be able to give you a rough outline of the things that can happen after hip replacement surgery, starting from the day of the operation itself up until three months later.
Total joint replacement surgery, including hip replacement, is one of the most commonly performed elective surgeries. According to a study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), in 2014 more than 370,770 total hip replacement surgeries were done in the United States.
In a total hip replacement surgery, or arthroplasty, the damaged ball-and-socket hip joint is removed and is replaced by an artificial hip joint made out of metal or durable synthetic materials. The goal of total hip replacement surgery is to restore the full range of motion in your joint and to relieve pain caused by arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other hip-related injuries and conditions.
The surgery is usually only done if previous measures were unsuccessful in decreasing your pain or improving your mobility.
Timeline of surgery recovery
The recovery time after total hip replacement varies per individual. However, according to various data gathered from many patients who’ve undergone this surgery, there may be some common milestones.
According to the AAOS, most people can expect rapid improvement for the first three to four months after hip replacement surgery. After that, recovery may slow down. You’ll likely still see improvements, just at a slower pace.
Below is the general timeline for recovery after hip replacement surgery.
The day of your hip replacement surgery
- You’ll need to check in to the hospital several hours before your scheduled surgery. Expect to stay for three to four days.
- The surgery will most likely last about two to three hours.
- Recovery from anesthesia will probably take about two hours.
- Once you’re fully awake, you’ll be sent to your hospital room. You will probably be recommended to stick to a liquid diet for the rest of the day.
- You will need medication to help with the pain and to help prevent infection and blood clots.
1-2 days after hip replacement surgery
- Once you are able to get out of bed, you will need to move around using a walker or crutches.
- You may be able to eat a normal diet again starting the next day after surgery. You’ll likely shift from intravenous (IV) to oral pain medications.
- You will need to see physical and occupational therapists who will teach you how to move safely and painlessly. Certain movements may be difficult to do for a few weeks.
3 days after hip replacement surgery
- Walking will likely be easier. You may be able to walk to the bathroom without help.
- If you are doing well and no further complications are observed, you will likely be discharged from the hospital.
- If the situation calls for it, you may be sent to a rehab facility so you can recover. Otherwise, you may go home.
4+ days after hip replacement surgery
- During this period you will need to follow your doctor’s instructions, especially when taking care of your incision. Keep the area dry and take sponge baths instead of showers or full baths to prevent infection.
- If you see any signs of infection (increased redness, drainage from the incision or you have a fever), contact your doctor right away.
- Always do your physical therapy exercises. Also, move as much as possible to maintain good blood flow in your legs and help prevent blood clots.
- Your physical therapist or nurse may visit you on a regular basis.
- The need for pain medication becomes less.
10-14 days after hip replacement surgery
- The staples from your incision will be removed. At this point, you can start taking baths or showers.
3-6 weeks after hip replacement surgery
- You may be able to do most light activities and, at this point, you may no longer need to use a walker or crutches.
- You may be able to drive again.
10-12 weeks after hip replacement surgery
- Your hips will have healed at this point. You may be able to return to all of your normal activities.
What can help with my recovery?
Consistent work and patience are needed when recovering from a total hip replacement. Certain measures and preparation are needed to be done even before getting the surgery to make your recovery easier.
You will need to strengthen the muscles around your hip with a physical therapy program. It is also good to surround yourself with a strong support system and to arrange plans should you need to stay at a rehabilitation center. You will also need to make adjustments to your home so that it’ll be easier and safer for you to go about your daily activities, such as installing a higher toilet seat or removing things that could trip you up, like cords and scatter rugs. Talk to your surgeon about the things to expect and the things to watch out for.
Once you have gone through the procedure, even more work needs to be done, especially with wound care and physical therapy. Be sure to work closely with your physical therapist to make sure you keep progressing with the level of exercises you’re doing.
Got a question, or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com. You can drop me a line here. Good luck!