One of the most important factors in deciding whether to have total hip replacement surgery is knowing what to expect from it. The surgery will likely relieve your pain and give you more mobility, but what else should you be aware of? The ability to walk pain-free may be your primary goal. While “pain-free” would be ideal, you may still experience some pain but significantly less pain than before the surgery.
Before your total hip replacement surgery, you will need to have a complete physical exam by your primary care physician. This will help assess your overall health and identify any preexisting conditions that may interfere with your surgery or recovery. Blood and urine tests, a cardiogram and x-rays may be needed to ensure your well-being before surgery. Preparing your skin for surgery will allow quicker recovery from incisions. Let your doctor know if you have a rash or any type of skin condition prior to surgery. Also let your surgeon know if you’re currently on any medications. Some medications may need to be avoided immediately before or immediately after your surgery.
Giving blood is always a good idea before a major surgery. If you require blood at any time during or after your surgery, they will have it there and readily available. If you’re overweight, your surgeon may ask that you lose weight before performing your surgery. If weight problems helped cause your hip problems a new hip may be damaged if placed under the same stress your hip was under.
Your home life and social life will be on hold until you and your new hip form a working relationship. You will be able to walk with the help of a walker or cane following your surgery but you may not be up to full speed for a few weeks. You may require minimal help cooking, cleaning house, shopping or even bathing for the first few weeks. Let your friends know ahead of time that you will require extra time and may even call on them for help from time to time.
Your hospital stay will likely be 2 to 4 days, depending on your condition. You will feel pain in your hip and be on medications for the pain for several days. Doctors and nurses will ask you to breathe deeply and cough frequently to avoid fluid buildup in your lungs. A V-shaped pillow placed between your legs will help keep your knee slightly elevated and your hip in a comfortable position while you sleep.
To keep blood clots from forming, you will be required to walk occasionally. Walking will also help keep your hip from becoming stiff. Physical therapy will help strengthen the muscle and work the soreness out of your hip. Take great care with your stitches. They will be removed about 2 weeks after your surgery. Be aware that loss of appetite is very common and you should drink plenty of fluids.
Your home may need a few minor modifications to ensure your safety upon return from the hospital. Make sure all safety bars in your tub or shower are securely fastened. Stairways should always have handrails, make sure any handrails inside or out are safe and secure. Remove all loose electrical cords or rugs that may cause you to fall.
For the first couple of weeks you will benefit greatly from a raised toilet seat, a stable seat or shower bench for showering and a shower hose. You will also need a comfortable chair with a firm seat cushion that keeps your knees slightly lower than your hips. The best type of chair will have a firm back and two arms so you may better support yourself when sitting and standing. You should also buy a device that will help you reach and grasp things that fall onto the floor, because bending over for those first couple of weeks will be painful.
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