© Edward Olive | Dreamstime
Many patients who come to seek hip replacement surgery have reached the breaking point with their hip arthritis. Their pain is nearly incessant, their functionality is greatly diminished, and their quality of life is abysmal. But everything changes once they go under the knife. Indeed, a total hip replacement can be life-altering, but to improve your recovery and maximize your results, you have to take some hip replacement precautions after the surgery, bolster your health, and understand what you should and shouldn’t do to preserve the longevity of your new hip.
Bouncing Back After Surgery
On average, most hip replacement patients stay in the hospital for about one to two days. But, that doesn’t mean you’ll be bed-ridden. In fact, you’ll be up and walking the day of your surgery, once the effects of the surgical anesthesia wear off, which can prevent blood clots, constipation and respiratory complications. You’ll also undergo physical therapy in the hospital to improve mobility in your new hip.
Blood clots that form in the veins of the leg can travel to the lungs and cause a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism. So, while you’re in the hospital, in addition to ambulating, you’ll wear a compression device to promote circulation in your legs. And, for the first several weeks after surgery, you’ll need to take an anti-clotting medication.
Another complication that can arise after surgery is dislocation of the joint, which occurs when the prosthetic that’s implanted in the femur pops out of the cup placed in the hip socket, or acetabulum. So, your surgeon and physical therapist will instruct you on hip replacement precautions you’ll need to take in the first two to three months after your surgery, when the risk of dislocation is greatest.
Those precautions vary depending on the surgical approach your surgeon used. If the surgeon accessed the hip from the front (anterior approach), you should avoid hyperextending the hip joint or rotating your hip outward. If the surgeon accessed the hip from the posterior side of the leg (the most common surgical approach), you should refrain from hyperflexing the hip (such as crouching or sitting on a low seat) and rotating the hip inward.
Additionally, some evidence suggests that active men who weigh more than 250 pounds may be at greater risk of failed bony ingrowth that may lead to early loosening and failure of the hip prosthesis. To reduce that risk, these men should limit weight-bearing on their operative hip for four to six weeks after surgery by using a cane or walker.
Because of the pain you’ll feel in your hip during the post-operative period, climbing stairs can be a challenge, and it may make you more susceptible to falling. Therefore, try to set up a sleeping area on the first floor, and remove any loose rugs, electrical cords, or furniture that might cause you to trip.
You’ll probably be able to resume driving in about three to four weeks after the surgery, but just make sure your reaction time is back to normal before you hit the open road. Test out your reflexes first by practicing behind the wheel in an empty parking lot and avoid narcotics while driving.
Hip Replacement Precautions to Make It Last
Before and after your surgery, you have to do your part to preserve your new hip’s longevity. For example, one of the chief hip replacement precaution is infection of the joint. Oftentimes, the infection requires another surgery to clean out the hip, and then intravenous antibiotics. Sometimes the entire prosthetic hip must be replaced. Infection in a hip replacement can be an adverse life-changing event.
Overall, infections occur in about one in 100 hip replacement patients, but the risk of infection is significantly greater in people who are obese, have diabetes, have an immunosuppressive disorder, or who smoke. One recent study found that smokers were much more likely than nonsmokers to require a reoperation for infectious complications within 90 days of a hip or knee replacement (Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Feb. 15, 2017).
So, before your surgery, optimize your weight and blood sugar, and if you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Before a joint replacement, some surgeons test for nicotine levels and will even postpone or cancel the operation if a patient is still smoking.
With today’s advanced materials, hip prostheses are expected to last upwards of 20 to 25 years or more, but the harder you are on your new hip, the more wear and tear it will suffer. Sure, the primary goal of a hip replacement is to help you return to a normal, active lifestyle, but you have to exercise some caution with your exercise. At least for the first several months, avoid running or activities that involve a lot of pounding on the hip.
Afterward, consider doubles tennis instead of singles and try walking, swimming or bicycling as your aerobic exercise choices. And, if you’ve been a runner, try some light jogging instead.