Hip Replacement: Recovery

Recovery Timeline

nurse helping patient walk with canes
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In This Article

Hip replacement surgery, also called hip arthroplasty, is performed by an orthopedic surgeon in a hospital or surgical center. The procedure, which takes about one to two hours to perform, involves the surgeon removing the damaged cartilage and bone of the hip joint and replacing it with an articifical implant.

Recovery from a hip replacement takes around four weeks; although, the precise timing will depend on various factors like the patient's age, how active they were before surgery, and whether they have other health conditions .

Surgery Follow-Up

The precise timing of when to follow-up after hip replacement surgery varies among orthopedic surgeons.

Here is a typical schedule:

  • Two weeks after surgery
  • Six weeks after surgery
  • Three months after surgery
  • One year after surgery

The purpose of these visits is to see how well you are healing and to monitor for complications like infection. If you have non-absorable stitches or sutures placed during surgery, these will be taken out during the two week post-operative visit.

Besides your surgery follow-up appointments, you may attend regular physical therapy appointments. The main goals of physical therapy are to help you regain normal strength of the muscles surounding your hip and to improve your gait.

Recovery Timeline

After hip replacement surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for approximately one to three days. Exceptions to this are carefully selected patients who undergo outpatient hip replacement, which is becoming more and more of a reality.

As you recover in the hospital, you can expect the following:

  • You will ice your hip and incision site and elevate your leg when laying down.
  • You will begin working with a physical therapist, doing simple exercise like ankle pumps, leg lifts, and heel slides, followed by getting up and out of bed and into a chair.
  • You will work with an occupational therapist who will help you prepare for tasks like washing, dressing, and other daily activities.

Patients who cannot safely return to their homes after surgery will go to a rehabilitation center for about seven to ten days after being discharged from the hospital. Most patients, though, can go home safely after their hospital stay with the assistance of a family member or friend.

Once at home, it's important to follow your discharge instructions, which will likely suggest the following:

  • Continue icing your hip as instructed.
  • Take your pain medication as directed, which usually includes a combination of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids.
  • Resume your normal diet, along with an iron supplement, and drink lots of fluids.
  • Attend all of your surgery and physical therapy appointments.

Activity Restrictions

Your surgeon will advise you on when you can return to various activities after the operation. It's important to follow their instructions in order to optimize your healing and help prevent complications.

Walking

In terms of walking, most patients take their first steps after surgery with the aid of a walker. Patients with good balance and a strong upper body may opt to use crutches.

Transitioning to a cane, which takes about four weeks, depends on two main factors:

  • Restrictions from your surgeon (not all surgeons allow full weight to be placed on the leg in the early weeks after surgery).
  • Your ability to regain leg muscle strength.

From a cane, the usual time to walking unasssisted is about six to eight weeks after surgery.

Exercise and Sex

The usual time to return to various activitie like biking, golfing, swimming, or having sex are around six weeks. This assumes that your wound has fully healed, and that you feel comfortable and ready.

Driving

Patients can usually return to driving about one week after surgery, assuming they can safely and quickly operate the gas and brake pedals and are off all opiod pain medication. 

Work

A patient's return to work depends on their specific occupation and the type of activity involved. Patients who work in a seated position, with limited walking, can plan on returning within about three weeks from the time of surgery. Patients who are more active at work (e.g., laborers) may need several weeks until they can return to full duties.

Other

Your surgeon may advise you on additional precautions when sitting, bending, or sleeping in order to protect your newly implanted hip. These precautions prevent you from placing your hip in a position where the ball could potentially come out of the socket—a problem called a hip dislocation. Because of newly designed implants, and new surgical techniques, these precautions are becoming less commonly recommended.

Coping With Recovery

Hip replacement surgery requires careful planning. In fact, probably the most important factor in coping with your recovery is being organized and pyschologically prepared before actually having the surgery .

You can do this by:

  • Purchasing or renting all of your equipment and having it ready to use at your home (e.g., walker, crutches, shower chair, and elevated toilet seat).
  • Removing home hazards that increase your risk for falling (e.g., loose rugs or electrical cords).
  • Arranging for home services, like a visiting nurse or physical therapist.
  • Talking with your surgeon in detail about what to expect from the surgery.

Even through hip replacement surgery is an elective surgery, it's normal to feel a bit uneasy or nervous before and after the operation. If you or a loved one are struggling to feel emotionally well about surgery or throughout the recovery process, please reach out to your surgeon or internist. They can provide you with a referal to a mental health professional.

Wound Care

It's important to keep the wound site over your hip clean, dry, and covered with a dressing until it fully heals after surgery, which is about six weeks.

Call your surgeon immediately if you develop any symptoms or signs of an infection, such as:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, or warmth around the incision site
  • Fluid draining from the incision site
  • Increased hip pain

In addition, patients who have undergone hip surgery are at risk for developing blood clots in their legs. Be sure to call your surgeon if you develop any pain, swelling, or redness in your leg or calf.

Seek emergent medical attention if you develop chest pain or trouble breathing, as this could be a sign of a pulmonary embolism (when the blood clot travels to your lungs).

A Word From Verywell

Recovering from hip replacement surgery requires a steadfast committment on your part. To optimize your recovery, you may consider talking with your surgeon about engaging in a preoperative joint replacement education/exercise program. Research suggests these programs might help patients achieve successful and speedy recoveries .

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Article Sources
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