Hip Replacement Surgery: How to Prepare

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A total hip replacement is a major surgery that is used to replace a hip joint that is deteriorated or causing pain. This surgery is usually done when other therapies have failed and your hip is causing you a lot of pain.

Total hip replacement, also known as total hip arthroplasty, takes the “ball and socket” of the original hip joint, replacing it with an artificial implant, or prosthesis. This involves the removal of the old joint, and implanting a new artificial joint

As a major surgery, you will have to plan for a hospital stay and a significant recovery period. Keep reading to find out how you will prepare for a total hip replacement.

Doctor welcomes woman checking in for hip replacement surgery
sturti / E+ / Getty Images

Location

When you have a total hip replacement, you should expect to be in the hospital for one to three days, usually staying two nights as an inpatient. While it is possible to go home quickly, your doctor will want to monitor your vital signs, like your heart rate, blood, pressure, and oxygen levels.

You will be checked for blood clots or excessive bleeding from the surgery. Your doctors and nurses will help you control your pain and advise you on how to continue your recovery at home.

On the first day, you will arrive at the hospital and begin preparation for surgery. Total hip replacement is not usually done as an outpatient procedure or in a freestanding surgery center.

What to Wear

One of the first things you will do after arriving at the hospital is to change your clothes. You will be asked to change out of your regular clothes and into a hospital gown. You may also be asked to bathe with a special soap at home. Once at the hospital, your skin will be cleaned again to prevent infection.

You can bring a change of clothes for after the surgery, but since you will stay at the hospital for several days and need someone to drive you home, you can have someone bring you fresh clothes when it’s time to leave.

Food and Drink

In the days before your surgery, your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare. People usually have questions about eating before surgery. Your doctor should advise you to:

  • Not eat anything after midnight on the night before your surgery
  • Not eat anything on the day of surgery before your arrival
  • That if you have something to drink on the day of surgery, clear liquids are preferred.

Eating or drinking before surgery can cause complications with anesthesia. When you are under anesthesia, all your body functions are slowed. If you have food or drink in your stomach, it can increase the chances you could vomit and the liquids may enter your lungs—a condition called aspiration.

Medications

It is very important to discuss your regular medications with your doctor well before the day of surgery. Some medications can make your surgery unsafe, such as blood thinners. These or other medications may have to be tapered, or stopped carefully.

Discuss plans to stop or pause any of your medications before your surgery with your doctor. Some of the medications doctors typically will stop in the weeks or days before surgery include:

  • All nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin. These should be stopped about a week before surgery. They thin the blood and increase your risk of bleeding during surgery.
  • Prescription blood thinners should be stopped before surgery, but your doctor will advise you on how and when to stop these medications. Some medications in this group include clopidogrel (Plavix), enoxaparin (Lovenox), warfarin (Coumadin), and apixaban (Eliquis).
  • Vitamins and supplements you usually take should be listed in detail and discussed with your doctor. While these seem harmless, these can have negative effects on your body during surgery. Some supplements your doctor may advise you to avoid include vitamin E, ginseng, glucosamine, fish oil, and ginkgo biloba.

What to Bring

You make also want to pack the following items for your hospital stay:

  • Health insurance card
  • Identification
  • A robe or loose-fitting clothes
  • Slip-on shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Comfortable clothing for therapy that is easy to put on and remove
  • Cell phone and charger
  • A book, e-book, or activity for your rest time.

Do not bring valuables or jewelry with you to the hospital.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Before your surgery, you might need to make some lifestyle changes to ensure a good recovery. If you smoke, you doctor will ask you to quit as soon as possible before surgery—two months is ideal. Tobacco use can interfere with your ability to heal.

You should also address any dental issues you might have. If you have dental problems, you should get them fixed at least two weeks before your surgery.

Dental procedures can increase the chances that bacteria will enter your bloodstream. This could lead to an infection that could reach your new hip joint. Be sure to tell your doctor if you need any urgent dental procedures in the weeks before your surgery.

You may also want to think ahead and make a few preparations at home to help you after your surgery. These may include:

  • Removing throw rugs
  • Clearing pathways throughout the house
  • Secure or move wires or cables that could cause you to trip or fall
  • Installing rails or grab bars
  • Installing a raised toilet seat
  • Securing a bathtub or shower chair
  • Purchasing a reacher or grabber tool
  • Have compression socks or other support hose
  • Finding a shoehorn or other device to help you put on socks and shoes without bending over
  • Placing everyday items where you can easily reach them

After your surgery, you will have limited mobility. Plan to have a friend or relative stay with you, ideally for the first few days to a week. If you don’t have anyone who can stay with you, tell your doctor and they may be able to arrange help.

You will also need someone to drive you home when you are discharged from the hospital, and someone to drive you to therapy and follow-up appointments.

A Word From Verywell

A hip replacement is a major surgery. You may be experiencing a lot of pain before your surgery, but keep in mind the surgery is very involved and your recovery will be long. In the end, you should have less pain after your hip replacement is healed, but making the proper preparations before your surgery can help improve your healing and overall recovery.

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Article Sources
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  1. UCSF Health. Preparing for hip replacement surgery.

  2. Mayo Clinic. Hip replacement. February 2020. Available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hip-replacement/about/pac-20385042.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Hip replacement surgery: Recovery and outlook.