After your total hip replacement surgery using the anterior approach, expect to stay in the hospital for at least 2 to 3 days. You will likely be in moderate pain for about a couple of weeks when walking after the surgery but you will receive medication if you need it. You can shower with your stitches because they have a protective film on it. They will eventually get absorbed into the skin tissue. Using a v-shaped pillow while you’re lying down will help keep the new hip aligned and reduce strain. Walking and light mobility are very important to your continued recovery and will begin either the day of or the day after your surgery. With the anterior approach you won’t need to do any physical therapy. You won’t have any restrictions on movements either.
Complications and Warning Signs
Serious complications following hip replacement surgery are very low. About 2 percent of patients suffer from complications such as joint infections, heart attack or stroke caused by blood clots after major surgery. Any chronic illness would, of course, increase the potential for more complications and increase recovery time. Mobility and physical therapy help decrease the chances of blood clots and other clotting disorders that may lead to heart attack, stroke or painful blood clots.
Other rare complications may include dislocation, bleeding, stiffness, fracture or damage to the nerves and blood vessels. Lingering pain that is not eased by pain medications should be reported to your doctor. Over time the artificial joints, just like real joints, will show signs of wear and tear. Breakthroughs in prosthetics over the last few years have reduced the possibility of artificial joints wearing out, but it’s still a very small possibility.
Recovering from Total Hip Replacement
The first few weeks after your surgery are the most important weeks. They will have the greatest impact on the success of your full and timely recovery.
Loss of appetite is a very common post-surgery occurrence. Don’t let it worry you overly-much. Eat a well-balanced diet and supplement with vitamins if you aren’t getting the recommended nutrients. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and promote proper healing. Fluids are very important to both skin and muscle health. During the first several weeks, it is very important to keep up your strength, maintain hydration and exercise your new hip joint.
Normal physical activity should be resumed right away with no restriction in the movements. Your doctor will give you a list of exercises and stretches that will gradually get you back into your normal daily routine. Specific exercises performed several times per day will help restore movement and strength.
Dr. Joel Matta is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder and director of the Hip and Pelvis Institute at St John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. He is accredited with the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Dr. Matta has performed over 600 total hip replacement surgeries using the anterior approach. More information about the anterior approach can be found at http://www.hipandpelvis.com
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