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It may come as a surprise to you that total joint replacement patients are usually encouraged to get up and start moving around as soon as possible after surgery – as early as the day of surgery. When you are, medically stable, the physical therapist will recommend certain exercises for the affected joint. Physical therapy is a key part of recovery. The more quickly a joint replacement patient gets moving again, the more likely he or she will regain independence. To ease the discomfort the activity will initially cause, pain medication is recommended prior to therapy. In addition, the physical therapist will discuss plans for rehabilitation following hospital discharge.
Hip replacement involves replacing the femur (head of the thigh bone) and the acetabulum (hip socket). Typically, the artificial with its stem is made of a strong metal, and the artificial socket is made of polyethylene (a durable, wear-resistant plastic).
In total knee replacement, the artificial joint is composed of metal and polyethylene to replace the diseased joint. The prosthesis is anchored into place with bone cement or is covered with an advanced material that allows bone tissue to grow into it. Total joint replacements of the hip and knee have been performed since the 1960s. While the expected life of conventional joint replacements is difficult to estimate, it is not infinite.
Preparing for total joint replacement begins weeks before the actual surgery date. In general, your doctor may discuss the following with you:
Every hospital has its own particular procedure, but total joint replacement patients can expect their day-of-surgery experience to follow this basic routine:
In the days following surgery, your condition and progress will continue to be closely monitored by your orthopedic surgeon, nurses, and physical therapists. Much time will be given to exercising the new joint, as well as deep breathing exercises to prevent lung congestion. Gradually, pain medication will be reduced, the IV will be removed, diet will progress to solids food, and you will become increasingly mobile.
Whether you are sent directly home or to a facility that assists in rehabilitation will depend on your physician’s assessment of your abilities.
The complication rate following joint replacement surgery is very low. Serious complications, such as joint infections, occur in less than 2% of patients. Nevertheless, as with any major surgical procedure, patients who undergo total joint replacement are at risk for certain complications – the vast majority of which can be successfully avoided and/or treated. Infection may occur in the wound or within the area around the new joint. Following surgery, you will receive antibiotics to help prevent infection. You may also need to take antibiotics before undergoing even minor medical procedures to reduce the chance of infection spreading to the artificial joint. Blood clots can result from several factors, including the patient’s decreased mobility following surgery, which slows the movement of the blood. There are a number of ways to reduce the possibility of blood clots, including:
The vast majority of individuals who have joint replacement surgery experience a dramatic reduction in joint pain and a significant improvement in their ability to participate in the activities of daily living. However, joint replacement surgery will not allow you to do more than you could before joint problems developed. Your physician will recommend the most appropriate level of activity following joint replacement surgery.
In the weeks following total joint replacement, certain limitations are placed on every patient’s activities. After joint replacement, a good rule of thumb is that acceptable physical activities should:
Pneumonia is always a risk following major surgery. Ask your doctor for a complete list of risks.
Questions or Comments? Please contact the Orthopedic Clinic at (940) 521-5360.