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Recovering After Joint Replacement

Joint replacement is a surgery performed to replace parts of a diseased joint with artificial prostheses. The goal of joint replacement is to eliminate pain and return you to your normal activities. You can help in recovery and improve the outcomes of the procedure by following certain precautions and changing the way you carry out your daily activities.

Postoperative care After Joint Replacement

After the surgery, you may experience pain and swelling, which can be controlled with medication that your doctor will prescribe. You are discharged from the hospital once you have sufficient pain control and can perform basic activities on your own, such as getting in and out of bed, going to the bathroom and walking with an assistive device such as crutches or walker. If you are unable to achieve these, you will be transferred to a skilled nursing or rehabilitation center.

On reaching home, have a family member or caregiver assist you with your activities for a few weeks. Taking care of someone following joint replacement surgery requires compassion, awareness and patience. Basic points to follow by your caregiver:

  • Helping with basic movement and functions as well as provide emotional support.
  • Having a clear understanding of your medications and ensure they are administered in a timely manner.
  • Assisting you with household chores, paperwork and traveling to keep your appointments.
  • Keeping emergency numbers ready.
  • Helping and motivating you to perform your rehabilitation exercises.
  • Ensuring that furniture is rearranged so as not to interfere with your movement and cause falls.
  • To avoid bending or reaching out, items that you use frequently can be placed easily within reach.
  • General Instructions.

Apart from the specific instructions given to you depending on the type of surgery you have undergone, the basic general instructions that you should follow after your surgery are as follows:

Take pain relieving and other medications as advised. Pain relieving medication should be taken with food. After the first 48 hours of surgery, take the pain medication only when needed.

Do not drink alcohol, drive a vehicle, operate any machinery or sign a legal document for the first 24 hours after the surgery as the affect of the sedative and/ or the aesthesia administered during the surgery may last for the first 24 hours of the surgery.

Use ice packs to control swelling. However, make sure that the ice bag does not leak into the dressing. Ice packs can be used liberally for the first 48 hours and even later, if required.

Follow the specific restriction of activity, as advised. Remember that it is easier to prevent developing pain rather than managing it once it has already developed. Rest for a few days after the surgery and keep the operated extremity elevated, above the level of your heart, to control swelling.

Keep the dressing clean and dry to promote wound healing.

Try to begin physical therapy a day or two after the surgery. Exercises in the first week are usually aimed at regaining joint motion. Strengthening exercises are initiated later. Regular exercises are critical for a successful outcome.

Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks.

Schedule your follow up appointment with your doctor as advised.

Please consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Increased drainage from the incision.
  • Increased redness around the operated area.
  • Increased swelling that does not decrease with ice and elevation.
  • Foul odor.
  • Fever greater than 101°F.
  • Coldness, numbness or blanched white or bluish color of the fingers or toes.
  • Sudden calf pain or shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain.