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After surgery information

After surgery information.

What can I expect right after surgery?
Immediately following surgery you will be sent to the recovery room until you are awake and alert. You may experience chills and nausea: these are normal side effects of the anesthesia. Additionally you may notice:

  • Drainage tubes and catheters. A drainage tube and catheter may be in place and is usually removed the second day after surgery.
  • Pain medications.  You will be given pain medication to alleviate the pain post operatively.  Patients are often treated with a PCA (patient controlled analgesia), a device that you use to administer your own pain medication through an IV.  After the IV is removed, your pain medication will be given in pill form.
  • Elastic stockings.  You may be fitted with elastic surgical stockings that help prevent blood clots and improve circulation.  You may wear these stockings every day for 6 to 8 weeks following surgery.
  • CPM machine.  Your operated leg may be connected to CPM (continuous passive motion) machine, which slowly bends it up and down to improve range of motion.  This is usually applied post operatively day 1.  When you are returned to your hospital room, your family and friends may visit with you.
  • A physical therapist will also start you on a rehab program the same day or the day after surgery.

When can I drive after surgery?
For right-sided hip and knee replacements driving is not advisable for 6 weeks. For left-sided hip and knee replacements driving is allowed when narcotic usage is not necessary during the day and only for automatic transmissions. If your car has a clutch you will not be able to drive for 6 weeks.

How long do I need to use my abduction pillow?
Ideally you should use it the first six weeks after surgery.  It is your best protection to avoid dislocations while in bed.  We realize that it can be very uncomfortable so it is permissible to use a regular pillow between the legs, but you should be careful not to let it come out.  After six weeks you may be more comfortable with one pillow between your legs when you lie on your side.

May I sleep on the same side that was operated?
The safest way to sleep is on your back with a pillow between your legs. However, if you find this too uncomfortable, yes you can sleep on the side we operated on.  It may be uncomfortable if there is soreness in the incision, but it will not do any damage.  You should use an abduction pillow or regular pillow the first six weeks.

My new joint feels great!  How soon can I start my daily walking?
You can safely walk up to one mile at a time.  When you are first starting out, you may consider walking a few blocks and gauge how you and your new joint are feeling.  Then you can work yourself up to a mile.  Long distance walking (greater than one mile) on a frequent basis is not advisable due to problems with polyethylene wear and osteolysis.

What should I do if I am having problems with my artificial hip?
Contact the orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgery.  Most concerns can be answered over the phone. In most cases, the physician or their nurse will advise you promptly of the best course of action to take to alleviate the problem.  If it is a medical emergency contact your local emergency medical service.

What measures are taken to reduce blood clots (DVT)?
Blood clots result from several factors including decreased mobility causing sluggish movement of the blood through your veins.  Blood clots may be suspected if pain and swelling develop in your calf or thigh (unrelated to your incision), tenderness or redness in your calf, and swelling of your thigh, calf, ankle or foot.  Warning signs that a blood clot has traveled to your lung include shortness of breath, chest pain, particularly with breathing.  This is called a pulmonary embolism.  Consult your orthopedic surgeon immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms.  Several measures are used to reduce the possibility of blood clots, including:

  • Elastic stockings.
  • Exercise to increase blood flow in the leg muscle.
  • Plastic boots that inflate with air to compress the muscles in your legs.
  • Use of blood thinning medicines.

What precautions should I take with my new hip?
To assure proper recovery and prevent dislocation of the prosthesis, you must take special precautions.

  • Do not cross your legs.
  • Do not bend your hips more than a right angle (90 degrees).
  • Do not turn your feet excessively inward or outward.  Use a pillow between your legs at night when sleeping until you are advised by your orthopedic surgeon that you can remove it.  Your surgeon and physical therapist will give you more instructions at discharge.
  • When sitting keep your feet together and your knees apart.
  • Avoid falling.  A fall during the first few weeks after surgery can damage your new hip and may result in a need for more surgery. Stairs are a particular hazard until your hip is strong and mobile.  Use a cane, crutches, a walker, handrails, or have someone help you until you improve your balance, flexibility and strength.


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