Now that you’ve undergone hip replacement surgery, your journey toward recovery begins. The recovery phase is just as crucial and demanding of your attention to ensure that your body is healing well and that there are no complications. As such, being aware of a postsurgical total hip replacement timeline is the first step to planning your recuperation.
Total Hip Replacement Timeline
A total hip replacement involves significant structural changes, which directly affect the healing process. On average, hip replacement recovery can take around two to four weeks but do keep in mind that it differs from person to person. One’s recovery also depends on factors, such as activity level before surgery, age, nutrition, preexisting conditions, and other health and lifestyle factors.
Here’s a timeline to give you a clearer picture of what you can expect in the next few days or weeks following your surgery.
Immediately after surgery
Rehabilitation starts as soon as surgery is completed. You may experience soreness as the anaesthetic wears off, but it can be manageable with pain medication. Wearing compression stockings is also a must to reduce the risk of blood clot formation.
At this stage, you are encouraged to sit up, get out of bed, and walk around, since physical activity is a crucial part of post-surgery recovery. While these gradual exercises can help you bounce back sooner, you still need to make sure that somebody is there to assist you.
The average hospital stay for hip replacement is around one to two days. But you can also be discharged on the same day if the surgical team finds no reason to keep you overnight. Alternatively, if you need extra attention or don’t have home support, you may be transferred to a nursing or rehabilitation facility.
The first forty-eight hours after hip replacement surgery
At this point, you should be able to get out of bed and move around, but with assistance. To strengthen your muscles and improve blood circulation, try to stay in motion for 20-30 minutes, albeit at a slow pace.
Three to four days after hip replacement surgery
By the third day after surgery, patients usually find it easier to walk around unassisted. Pain is also manageable. If there are no post-surgical complications and your surgical team sees that you can complete essential tasks independently, you may be allowed to go home. However, you must still arrange for someone to take you home.
Your surgeon will provide you with a programme of exercises which you can perform daily with your physiotherapist. In addition, they may advise you on proper weight-bearing for the affected hip, how to sleep or move around comfortably, and how to ensure your safety in the coming months.
The first two weeks after hip replacement surgery
Within the first week after surgery, stay alert for any signs of infection such as fever, redness, and discharge from the wound. Proper wound care is also essential. Sponge baths are recommended until two weeks after hip surgery or before the staples that close the wound are removed. After that, you can return to taking regular baths or showers and even start walking without aid.
Three to six weeks after hip replacement surgery
You can already do some light activities at this point in your recovery. However, the amount of effort that you’re allowed to exert will depend on how your body is healing.
To avoid hip pain and stiffness, continue walking every day and avoid sitting for prolonged periods. Your physiotherapist will advise you on proper exercises that can help stretch and strengthen your muscles.
Twelve weeks to one year after surgery
By this time, you should be able to gradually return to your normal activities. A full recovery will take about six to twelve months. Most of the pain and discomfort would have subsided within a year, although some patients may occasionally experience mild discomfort.
Planning Ahead For Recovery
Surgery is expected to limit your range of motion. Therefore, planning for your recovery is essential. For instance, have someone who will stay with you at least for the first few days since it will be challenging to do things independently.
Making modifications in your home before surgery can also help you get around safely and easily. The image below shows how you can prepare your home to be a safe place for you to heal.
Aftercare Reminders For Your New Hip
A prosthetic hip replacement can last up to two to three decades with proper care. Compared to older implants, the materials used today are a combination of metal, plastic, and ceramic parts. Hence they are more durable and have fewer issues.
Here are some measures you can follow to take care of your prosthetic hip.
- Avoid crossing your legs or ankles when you sit, stand, or lie down.
- Avoid flexing your hips too far forward from your waist or bending them beyond 90 degrees.
- Don’t lie on the affected side or apply pressure on the wound as it heals.
- Use a special abductor pillow or splint to align your hip while lying down.
- Avoid low chairs or toilet seats.
- Avoid twisting your hip when you turn.
- Use assistive devices, such as a reacher/grabber or a long-handled shoehorn to avoid bending down often.
- When getting dressed, put on socks, pants, or pantyhose on the affected leg first.
- When undressing, remove clothes from the affected side last.
- Use a walking aid (e.g. walker or crutches) until you are strong and stable enough to walk without one.
- When getting up from a chair, slide towards the edge and use the arms of the chair, walker, or crutches for support instead of rocking out of your seat.
- When going up the stairs, step using the leg of the unaffected side first.
- Continue using your crutches, walker, or other assistive devices until your doctor tells you that it’s time to stop using them.
- Wear shoes that have non-skid soles.
Possible Complications That Can Derail Your Hip Replacement Timeline
While the risk of complications associated with hip replacement surgery is generally low, here are some that can slow down your recovery.
- Blood clots
- A difference in length between your legs
- Joint infection
- Hip dislocations
- Wear and tear of the prosthetic hip joint
It is important to stay alert for any of the warning signs below, so you can immediately inform your team:
- Worsening hip pain
- Fever and chills
- A foul smell or discharge from your wound
- Pain, redness, swelling and tenderness in your calf, as these are the usual signs of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a potentially life-threatening blood clot
- Worsening redness or swelling around your wound
Remember, your hip replacement recovery timeline may differ from the next person, but what’s important is the progress you’re making. We hope that the information we shared in this blog can help you better prepare for your recovery. If you wish to learn more about this procedure and other related concerns, you can book a non-obligatory consultation with A/Professor Andrew Dutton.
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