Hip, knee and back surgery are common operations, but as well as dealing with surgery there are things you need to consider when you return home from hospital. Here in the first part of a three part series on recovering from hospital after these procedures is some advice on how best to recuperate after hip surgery.
Recovering after hip surgery
If you need to have hip surgery you’re probably thinking about what will happen in hospital when you have your operation. But it’s worth also preparing for will happen when you leave hospital, and what you can do to get on the road to recovery.
Generally, try to get back into your regular routine as soon as possible. And you can also use this as an opportunity to make a fresh start, such as eating more healthily by getting five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables per day, and quitting smoking if you smoke.
If you have a dressing on the area operated on, follow the instructions your nurse gave you to care for your wound at home.
How to tell if you might have a blood clot
Signs to look out for after your operation include:
- pain or swelling in your leg
- the skin of your leg feeling hot or discoloured
- veins near the surface of your leg appearing larger than normal.
Recovering from a hip replacement
Initially, you will feel discomfort while walking and exercising, and your legs and feet may be swollen. You may be given an injection into your abdomen to help prevent blood clots forming in your legs. You may also be given a short course of antibiotics to help prevent infection.
A physiotherapist may teach you exercises to help strengthen the hip and will explain what should and should not be done after the operation. They will teach you how to bend and sit to avoid damaging your new hip.
Looking after your new hip
With care, your new hip should last well. The hospital may give you the following advice to help you care for your new hip, but it may vary based on your doctor’s recommendations.
- avoid bending your hip more than 90° (a right angle) during any activity
- avoid twisting your hip
- do not swivel on the ball of your foot
- when you turn around, take small steps
- do not apply pressure to the wound in the early stages (so try to avoid lying on your side)
- do not cross your legs over each other
- do not force the hip or do anything that makes it feel uncomfortable
- avoid low chairs and toilet seats – raised toilet seats are available.
When can I go home?
You will usually be in hospital for around three to five days. If you are generally fit and well, the surgeon may suggest an enhanced recovery programme, where you start walking on the day of the operation and are discharged within one to three days.
How will I feel when I get home?
It’s likely you will feel tired at first. You have had a major operation and muscles and tissues surrounding your new hip will take time to heal.
You may be eligible for home help and there may be aids that can help you. You may want to arrange to have someone to help you for a week or so.
An occupational therapist should be available to assist you. They will assess how physically capable you are and, when you are about to leave hospital, they will assess your circumstances at home.
Your occupational therapist will be able to advise you on how to do daily activities, such as washing yourself. They will also advise about any equipment you may need to help you to be independent in your daily activities. This may include a raised toilet seat and aids to help you dress.
How soon will the pain stop?
The pain that you may have experienced before the operation should go immediately, although you can expect to feel some pain as a result of the operation itself, but this will not last for long.
Is there anything I should look out for or be concerned about?
After hip replacement surgery, contact your GP if you notice redness, fluid or an increase in pain in the new joint.
Will I have to go back to hospital?
You will be given an appointment to check your progress, which is usually 6-12 weeks after your hip replacement. Your surgeon will want to see you a year later to check that everything is OK. Then every five years after that you will have your hip X-rayed to make sure it is not beginning to loosen.
How long will it be before I feel back to normal?
Generally, you should be able to stop using your crutches within four to six weeks, and feel more or less normal after three months, by which time you should be able to do all your usual activities.
When can I drive again?
You can usually drive a car after about six weeks, subject to advice from your surgeon. It can be tricky getting in and out of your car at first. It is best to ease yourself in backwards and swing both legs round together.
When can I go back to work?
This depends on your job, but you can usually return to work 6-12 weeks after your operation.
Will I need another new hip?
Nowadays, most hip implants last for 15 years or more. If you are older, your new hip may last your lifetime. If you are younger, you may need another new hip at some point.
You will need to be extra careful to avoid falls in the first few weeks after surgery as this could damage your hip, meaning you may then require more surgery.
Use any walking aid, such as crutches, a cane or a walker as directed.
Take extra care on the stairs and in the kitchen and bathroom as these are all common places where people can have accidental falls.
For further information: visit the NHS Choices website. You can also check if there’s a Get Well Soon leaflet for your particular operation. These leaflets are produced by the Royal College of Surgeons and give detailed information on recovering from various different procedures.
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