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What to expect after total hip replacement surgery

With your preparations for total hip replacement surgery completed, you probably have some questions about what to expect.  Here are the most frequently asked questions about what will happen after your hip replacement surgery.

 How long will I be incapacitated right after surgery?

We expect you will get out of bed and walk the day of surgery. This is extremely important to get your muscles moving and to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs and fluid from collecting in your lungs.  In addition, the next morning you will get up and will be walking with a walker or a cane to participate in physical therapy.  Typically, patients should plan to leave the hospital post-op day 2 for home and are on their way to normal activity four to six weeks after surgery.

How long will I be in the hospital?

If you are hospitalized at all (outpatient patients go home right after surgery)… most hip patients are hospitalized for 2 nights which is required by Medicare regulation.  Very few patients need to go to a rehab facility and, in fact, this is discouraged in our program. Younger patients, insured with commercial insurance, typically have their hip surgery at our Seaside Surgery Center outpatient center and go home directly after surgery…never being hospitalized.

Where will I go after discharge from the hospital?

Virtually all patients are able to go home directly after discharge.  We believe that for most patients this is preferable to a 3-week admission to a rehab center and will generally lead to quicker return to normal activity.  The national trend among hip surgeons is to avoid putting patients into rehab facilities after surgery.  Of course, if you have your hip replacement done at the Surgery Center, you will go home directly.

When can I take a shower?

A plastic protective dressing is applied to cover the wound at surgery and will usually stay in place for one week. You may shower the day after surgery…..BUT, you may not go into a pool, bath, hot tub, or the ocean until you have been advised to do so –usually after your first follow up exam approximately 8 days after surgery.

Will I need blood?

Although blood transfusions are very uncommon, you may need blood either during or after the surgery.  It has been shown that if you have a low blood count (anemia) prior to surgery (Hb <13g/dl), you are at risk to need blood after surgery.  Pre-op storage of your own blood only increases your chance of needing additional blood after surgery and we rarely request this. 

Also, a low blood count coming into surgery results in post-op fatigue and lowers the chance of walking the day of surgery.  Our transfusion rate in patients with a normal blood count pre-op is extremely low. 

Where and how long will my scar be?

It is our belief that smaller incisions cause less pain.  We will try to make the smallest incision possible that still allows us to do a satisfactory procedure.  Usually for a first-time hip replacement the scar will be approximately 3-4 inches long once healed. The location of your scar is most typically on the front-outside (direct anterior approach) of your hip.

Will I need a walker or a cane?

Most patients will use a walker for about 2-3 days and then a cane for a few additional days. By 2 weeks the majority of patients are walking independently.

For more information on this subject, call The Zehr Center for Orthopaedics at 239-596-0100 or visit www.zehrcenter.comThe information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments, or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of a visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read on this topic. 

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