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What To Expect In Total Hip Replacement Recovery

If your physician recommends a total hip replacement, you may be worried about what your future holds.  What should you expect from recovery? Although the entire rehabilitation process can take up to a year, the first few weeks are critical to your successful hip replacement.  

What to Expect in Immediate Recovery

For a total hip surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital 2-4 days.  If you are making repairs to a previous hip replacement, your hospital stay may be longer.  

Medication:  While you are in the hospital, you will receive pain management as well as intravenous antibiotics.  Although complications following hip replacement are rare, the most common adverse reactions include infection.  The antibiotics will lessen chances of infection.  You may also require medication to prevent blood clots which is another risk of surgery. 

Therapy:  Within the first day, you will receive physical therapy.  Although it may come as a shock to you, you need to get moving right away.  That is the best road to a successful recovery, so don't reject the therapist.  Rather, do the best you can.  

Initially, your therapist will teach you exercises to improve recovery.  For instance, you are encouraged to contract and release your leg and buttock muscles to stabilize the hip joint.  To increase range of motion, you will pedal your feet like riding a bicycle.  

You can expect several physical therapy treatments a day while you are in the hospital.  With the help of your therapist, you will learn to walk with a walker or crutches so you do not place too much weight on your new hip.  

Once you leave the hospital, you have several options for further rehabilitation. 

What to Expect in Rehabilitation

Once you leave the hospital, you have several options for further rehabilitation.

Home Health:  If you respond well to the surgery and have few health risks, your surgeon may recommend you return home for the duration of your recovery.  You will need the help of a family member or friend for at least the first week with bathing, dressing, and meal preparation.  You won't be able to drive for 6-8 weeks, so you may need help traveling to appointments as well. Be aware that many home health care companies (such as At Home Health Care) offer assistance with bathing, dressing, etc., if you do not have a family member who can care for you.  

A home health physical therapist may come to your home to strengthen your legs and hips.  Furthermore, the therapist will educate you how to manage your daily activities of living as you recover.  The therapist may point out activities and movements to avoid so you do not dislocate your hip such as:  

  • Do not cross your legs.
  • Do not lift your knee higher than hip level.
  • Avoid bending over more than 90 degrees.  

Home health therapy is an ideal option so you can recover in the comfort of your own home.  

Inpatient Rehabilitation:  If you cannot maneuver with crutches or a walker, then your surgeon may recommend you move to a rehab hospital for further rehabilitation.  Most patients stay in an inpatient rehab facility for 2.5 to 3 weeks.  Patients receive 3 hours each day of physical and occupational therapy in this setting.  

Skilled Nursing Facility:  An intermediate option is a skilled nursing facility.  Patients who are not able to manage at home yet do not need 3 hours of therapy daily may be placed in this setting.  Your rehabilitation will continue; however, the setting is not as comfortable as home.  Be aware that most rooms are shared.  

After 6 weeks of rehabilitation, you will be able to return to most normal activities.  You will have periodic check-ups up to a year following the procedure to ensure your continued healing.  

Undoubtedly, undergoing a total hip replacement will enhance your life.  Following successful rehabilitation, you will have greater mobility and decreased pain.