Top Ten Questions before joint replacement surgery
Q: How long is the hospital stay?
A: Hip replacement requires a 1-3 night stay in the hospital.
Knee replacement is 2-3 nights for most.
Q: How long is the recovery?
A: For hip replacement, recovery for most activities takes about 4-6 weeks. You will continue to gain in strength, endurance and confidence for 3-6 months.
Knee replacement takes a little longer. You should expect 6-12 weeks to return to most activities and 8-12 months of improvements in strength and movement.
Q: Can I recover at home?
A: 80% of our patients will continue their recovery at home. Preparing a safe and comfortable environment, arranging for appropriate help, and having adequate strength and mobility will ensure that success.
Some will choose to engage the services of a home health care agency to provide intermittent assistance for wound care, blood draws, physical/occupational therapy services, or private duty nursing care. If you are deemed to be “homebound”, most insurance plans will cover these services, less any deductibles or co-pays that your insurance plan requires.
Q: Will I need help at home?
A: You should have 24 hour support for the first few days until you adjust to your new environment and activity modifications. After that, most will be able to function independently enough to be safe at home alone, as long as people are checking on them and phone access is near.
We welcome and encourage your “coach’s” participation in your hospital recovery. This gives them opportunity to observe your exercise program, practice how to help you if you need it, and to be an extra pair of eyes and ears as you focus on physical recovery.
Q: I live alone-what support is available for me?
A: In this situation, we often recommend a short term stay in a skilled nursing facility until you regain the strength, balance, and endurance you need to function safely by yourself. For some, this is just a few days and others need 2-3 weeks.
Q: Will I need special equipment?
A: All joint replacement patients will need an assistive device for walking until their legs are strong enough to go without it. Which device is recommended will vary from person to person. Expect to use some sort of support for 2-6 weeks depending on your individual progress and restrictions.
You may also find some bathroom aides to be helpful. An elevated toilet seat or commode makes it easier to get up and down from a low seat and, if you don’t have a sturdy counter or grab bar, a frame or toilet seat with handles allows you to use your arms for assistance in raising/lowering.
If you have a tub/shower, a transfer bench or a grab bar will help to steady you as you get in and out. A non-skid mat in the bottom of the tub is also wise.
Q: What can I do to set up my home in advance?
A: Make your home environment as safe and accessible as possible. Take up throw rugs, hide extension cords, and pick up clutter.
Create wider pathways to accommodate use of a walker or crutches. Consider re-arranging furniture or walkways to minimize obstacles.
Move frequently used items to the main floor of your home to minimize the need to navigate stairs. Although you will practice stairs in the hospital, this activity is a safety hazard until you are strong and steady enough to minimize the risk for falls.
Q: Will I need physical therapy?
A: You will learn your early exercise program while in the hospital and will be expected to do this 2-3 times/day, every day, while you recover.
If you have Home Care, the therapist will see you 3-5 times/week to oversee your home exercise program and add exercises as you are able.
For hip replacement, these exercises and regular walking are often sufficient, unless you are working toward a specific goal (such as return to sport or work) or have gait or balance issues that need additional attention. A short course of outpatient therapy beginning after the first couple of weeks can help to direct this progress toward your goals. For knee replacement, outpatient therapy will begin when you are ready to advance your strengthening. For most, this is around two weeks, but some are ready earlier. This continues 2-3 times a week for 3-4 weeks on average, with some requiring more and some requiring less.
Q: When can I drive?
A: Driving is less about the joint and more about safety. Do not drive until you have the strength to operate the gas and brake safely, and the reaction time to respond quickly. When you are recovering from major surgery, using pain medications, or have low blood counts, your reaction time will be sluggish. For most, driving should be avoided for 3-6 weeks.
Q: What should I bring to the hospital?
A: We encourage you to bring regular clothing to the hospital for use while you are here. This includes undergarments and footwear if you choose.
For hip replacement, elastic waist bottoms with a loose fit around the pelvis are best. Slip-on shoes/slippers that are secure on the feet are welcome.
For knee replacement, elastic waist bottoms with a loose fit around the knee are best. Shorts are preferred. Slip-on shoes/slippers that are secure on the feet are welcome.