In medicine, hip replacement surgery is considered to be a procedure that is reliably cost effective, with a good success rate. It can be a breath of relief for patients who have been tolerating arthritis pain in one or both hips and finds the discomfort too disruptive to handle. However, surgeons advise this to patients only when conservative treatments have failed.
Doctors typically begin hip pain management with measures such as activity modification, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid (cortisone) injections.
Unfortunately, there are cases where pain persists despite the various non-surgical treatments. If you’ve struggled with the frustration from unrelenting pain, the promised relief provided by surgery is a logical next course of action.
If you’ve reached the point where you’re contemplating surgery, know that preparing for it is winning half the battle. So, we’re giving you these 7 tips to help you sail through the process with success.
Read: Patient’s Guide When Seeking Orthopaedic Care in Singapore
Strategies For Successful Hip Replacement Surgery
1. Dial Down The Swelling
During the first few weeks after surgery, you can expect moderate to severe swelling. You may even experience mild to moderate swelling 3-6 months down the line.
While it is a normal response to the surgical trauma, the swelling must be minimised because this can limit your ability to get back into the swing of things. You can get the swelling down by raising the legs using two pillows to elevate it above your heart. You may also apply a cold compress or wear compression stockings. You may check with your surgeon during your consultation to ensure that it is aligned with their instructions.
2. Prepare Your Home
Slips and falls are common reasons that drive people to hip replacement surgery in the first place. To avoid risking yourself to the same problem while recovering from surgery, you must prepare your household.
Your mobility and ability to accomplish usual tasks following surgery may be greatly reduced. Expect to be shuffling your feet for a while with your walking devices (e.g. walker, crutches, or cane), which means that you can easily trip on throw rugs, floor mats, or electrical cords around the house. This is why practical modifications must be made at home so you can still access necessities without excess movement or injuries.
You may do the following:
- Rearrange furniture so you can easily manoeuvre around the house with your assistive devices.
- Change rooms temporarily (make sleeping arrangements in areas around the house that is easily accessible) to minimise the use of stairs.
- Place items you frequently within easy reach (phone, medications, glasses, remote control, etc.) to avoid reaching up or bending down.
You can plan this with a family member, a friend, or a caretaker to ensure that someone will be available to help you with tasks like running errands, bathing, or cooking. At this point, never shy from getting all the help you can get so you can safely re-acclimate to daily life around the house.
3. Never Overlook Proper Wound Care
Wound management is a critical factor in the success of your hip replacement surgery. Think of your wound dressing as a protective barrier that stops the bleeding, absorbs fluids, and provides mechanical protection for the newly forming tissue. It’s applied to create a suitable environment for faster healing.
Since most of the healing process occurs at home, it’s on you to ensure that proper wound care is followed. You might wonder why all this fuss over changing bandages. The reason why this is strongly emphasised is to avoid any chance of infection.
In any surgery, an infection may compromise results. In hip joint replacement surgery, it’s considered a serious medical complication. In these cases, the bacteria may stick to the implant itself which can make infection difficult to treat. To correct the problem, a redo or revision surgery may be needed.
So, to avoid any complications, make sure that you stick to the post-surgical care instructions which will be given to you before surgery, and reiterated before discharge. It’s also important to be on the lookout for any signs of infection.
4. Be On The Lookout For Any Warning Signs Of Infection
You don’t need to have a clinical eye to spot an infection. While you heal, you need to be alert for any of the following symptoms:
- Increase pain or stiffness in a previously well-functioning hip joint.
- Persistent fever
- Increasing warmth, swelling, and redness around the surgical wound
- Prolonged or excessive wound drainage
- Cloudy wound drainage
- Shaking chills
- Increasing pain with activity and rest
- Opening of the wound edges
- Foul smell
Once you spot any of these, report it immediately to your doctor so it can be treated as soon as possible.
5. Keep Your Eyes Peeled for The Warning Signs of a Blood Clot
Patients who underwent joint replacement surgery have a high risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. The prevention and treatment of DVT is also an important part of your recovery.
A blood clot may already be compromising your recovery if you notice these symptoms:
- Severe swelling on your thigh, calf, ankle or foot
- Pain in your leg or calf unrelated to your incision
- Tenderness or redness above or below your knee
Any symptom of a clot shouldn’t be taken lightly. In rare cases, it may travel to your lungs and become life-threatening. If a clot happens to move its way to your lungs, it may cause shortness of breath, sudden chest pain, and localised chest pain associated with coughing. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, notify your doctor right away.
To prevent clot formation, you can do these simple exercises:
Read: Hip Recovery Timeline
6. Get Into a Healthy Exercise Routine
After getting work done on your hips, you might think that movement goes against healing. But did you know that most patients are able to walk within the same day, or the next day of surgery? You can even resume your usual routine within the first 3-6 weeks of your recovery. But, the recovery journey of each patient varies, so your only way to measure progress is looking at your own improvement from previous days.
Doctors would advise you to stay active, but the key is to avoid doing too much too soon. Once light activity becomes possible, you can incorporate a healthy exercise routine into your recovery program. You can start by walking and some light household chores. With gradual movement, you restore your hips strength and mobility.
For a variety of exercises, you can safely do at home, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons shares the following tips, here.
7. Pay Attention To Your Diet And Weight
You can expect to eat a normal diet once you get home from the hospital. Your surgeon may recommend that you boost your diet with supplements to enhance recovery. It is also advised that you drink plenty of fluids but avoid alcohol.
Additionally, you must also watch your weight after surgery to decrease the force applied to the hip joint and hip prosthesis. Doing so protects it from wearing down prematurely. This also improves your recovery process because, without the excess weight, you improve joint function and range of motion, especially during physical therapy.
Reasons Why Hip Replacement Surgeries Fail
Hip replacement surgery may have an impressive streak at success, but it’s not spared from potential failures. There are three identified reasons why this may happen, and these are patient factors, implant factors, and surgeon factors.
In terms of patient characteristics that play a defining role in why hip replacements fail, the patient’s age, sex, and cause of the hip joint disease will come into play. Implant issues arise usually on the matter of the type of materials used and how it behaves in response to wear and loading, and whether it should be inserted with or without cement. Lastly, the surgical technique used by your orthopaedic surgeon can also affect implant survival.