Recovering from Hip Replacement
Hip replacement (or hip arthroplasty) is historically one of the most successful surgeries in medicine. The hip can be damaged by different things including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, a fracture or other conditions. Surgery is considered when other non-surgical treatments such as medication and activity changes do not alleviate symptoms such as pain, swelling and stiffness.
Anatomy of the Hip
The hip is a ball-and-socket joint. The ball is called the femoral head. It is situated at the upper end of the femur, or thighbone. The socket is part of the pelvis bone, called the acetabulum.
The surfaces of the ball and socket bones are covered with a tissue called articular cartilage that provides cushioning. In addition, tissue called synovial membrane surrounds the hip joint and excretes fluid to lubricate the cartilage and ensure smooth movements of the hip. Ligaments connect the ball to the socket and provide stability to the joint.
Hip Replacement Surgery
In total hip replacement, the damaged bone and cartilage is removed and replaced with prosthetic components. The damaged femoral head is removed and replaced with a metal stem that is placed into the hollow center of the femur. The femoral stem may be either cemented or “press fit” into the bone. A press-fit prosthesis has a rough or porous surface to encourage the bone to grown into it, holding it in place.
A metal or ceramic ball is placed on the upper part of the femoral stem, replacing the removed femoral head. The cartilage surface (acetabulum) is then removed and replaced with a metal socket. Screws or cement can be used to hold the socket in place.
A spacer, which can be plastic, ceramic or metal, is then inserted between the new ball and socket to allow the joint to glide smoothly. The surgery is performed while the patient is under general anesthesia, and it typically takes a few hours.
Recovery from Hip Replacement Surgery: What to Expect
After surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area for the anesthesia to wear off. Medical staff will monitor your vitals and check your comfort level, alertness and need for pain medication. Post-surgery, the medical staff will check your lungs, assessing how deeply you can breathe, cough and blow into a medical device.
Some go home the same day of the surgery, while others, depending on their unique needs, may stay in the hospital longer.
Following hip replacement, you will likely be asked to walk, with assistance, the same day or the next day after surgery. Early movement is important to alleviate stiffness in the joint and surrounding muscles. It also helps avoid potential blood clots.
To prevent blood clots, you may also be given compression stockings or inflatable air sleeves that help keep the blood from pooling and clotting in the leg veins. Blood thinners can also be prescribed depending on factors such as how soon you are able to walk and overall risk of clots.
Leaving the Hospital
Once you are able to leave the hospital, the medical staff will review post-op care with you and your caregiver. Some reminders and advice will likely include:
- Avoid bending or reaching
- Consider getting a raised toilet seat
- Put things you need, such as your phone, medications, water, remote, tablet and/or books near where you will be recovering
- Care of your incisions
Patients with complex surgeries or those who do not have sufficient in-home support may benefit from staying at an in-patient rehabilitation facility. This can be discussed with your doctor.
Many patients, depending on their circumstances, will be able to resume low-impact day-to-day activities within 3-6 weeks following surgery.
Physical therapy will likely begin in the hospital to help you begin moving the hip. You will also be given exercises to continue once you leave the hospital, often with the assistance of a physical therapist in your home. The therapist will help you begin using a walking aid such as crutches, walker or cane. Continued work with a physical therapist is critical to a successful recovery. The exercises provided will help you regain strength and mobility.
Another follow up visit will be scheduled with your surgeon, typically 6-12 weeks after the operation. The doctor will check to make sure that your hip is healing properly. By this time, most patients have resumed normal day-to-day activities. It can still take 6-12 months for a patient to regain full strength and reach full recovery from the surgery.
Hip replacement surgery is designed to minimize pain and promote better mobility in the hip joint for those whose hip joint has been damaged. Many patients, depending on age and level of mobility, are able to return to an active lifestyle and commence activities such as swimming, hiking, biking and golf.
High-impact sports like running or basketball may be discouraged as they can put excessive pressure on the artificial components of the joint. This should be discussed with your surgeon.
At Ortho Illinois, we are dedicated to working with our patients to ensure that they can achieve a pain-free, active lifestyle following hip replacement surgery. Call us today to learn more.