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It may surprise 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 specific exercises for the affected joint. Physical therapy is a vital part of recovery. The more quickly a joint replacement patient moves again, the more likely they will regain independence. Pain medication is recommended before therapy to ease the discomfort the activity will initially cause. 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 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 comprises metal and polyethylene to replace the diseased joint. The prosthesis is anchored with bone cement or covered with an advanced material that allows bone tissue to grow into it. Total hip and knee joint replacements 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 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 be closely monitored by your orthopedic surgeon, nurses, and physical therapists. Much time will be given to exercising the new joint and deep breathing exercises to prevent lung congestion. Gradually, pain medication will be reduced, the IV will be removed, the diet will progress to solid 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 meager. Serious complications, such as common 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 treated. Infection may occur in the wound or within the area around the new joint. Following surgery, you will receive antibiotics to help prevent disease. 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 several 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 develop. Your physician will recommend the most appropriate activity level 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.