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Going Home After Hip Replacement Surgery

Woman with walker

The outcome of hip replacement surgery is usually very good—especially if you carefully follow your rehabilitation care plan

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, over 234,000 total hip replacement surgeries are performed every year in the U.S. Most patients experience excellent results from the surgery, and afterwards have a much improved quality of life and activity level.

If you or a loved one undergo hip replacement, it’s important to know that the outcome of the surgery depends to a large degree on following your healthcare provider's instructions during the recovery period. While the new hip is healing, the patient’s job is twofold: to protect the new hip while it is healing, and to strengthen the muscles that move the hip and keep it in place.

After discharge from the hospital, you will need to have some help with the activities of daily living (ADLs) for several weeks. Home care may be arranged, or you may need to transfer to a rehabilitation center for awhile. Here are some suggestions and an overview of what to expect once you come home. 

Plan in Advance for Your Return Home

  • Look around your home, especially the kitchen, and arrange things so that you don’t have too reach up very high or bend down very low. For example, you may need to move pans to the counter instead of keeping them under the stove.

  • In order to keep from walking up stairs, you may need to rearrange furniture so that you can sleep downstairs.

  • Be sure that there is a chair available in the living room that has a higher seat than normal. Avoid low chairs with soft cushions.

  • Remove rugs or anything else on the floor that might cause you to fall.

  • Install a raised toilet seat, a grab bar and a chair for the shower, if possible.

Take Time to Heal

The incision site will take a couple of weeks to heal, while the deep tissue inside your body will take six to eight weeks to heal. You will be able to walk normally within two to three months. Remember that this surgery is successful 90 percent of the time, so have patience while your body heals.

Changing Dressings, Taking Medications

You will be given directions before leaving the hospital about caring for the site of the incision and changing the dressing. The dressing put on at the hospital will most likely stay in place for two or three days. Then, the site may require a dressing change daily until the drainage stops. This can take up to six days.

You may be given pain medication and an anti-coagulant (blood thinner). Your physician may monitor the level of anti-coagulant in your blood to make sure you are receiving the proper amount.

Take all medications as directed. Following your surgeon’s instructions carefully can help your body heal.

Monitoring Your Condition

Call your doctor right away if:

  • The wound looks red and/or your temperature exceeds 100.5°, or
  • You experience shortness of breath, calf or chest pain.

These symptoms can signal a blood clot.

For three to six months after surgery you may experience some swelling in the knee, foot or ankle. Elevate your leg and apply an ice pack for up to 20 minutes several times each day. If you develop pain in the hip, be sure to see the surgeon to have the hip evaluated.

Position Your Hip Carefully

It is easier to dislocate an artificial hip than a real one, but taking proper precautions can prevent your new hip from dislocating. Don’t bend or twist from the waist or cross your legs at the knees for at least two months.

When you sit or get out of a seated position, be sure your knees are separated by a shoulder width or more. Don’t try to pick up anything from the floor. Your doctor or physical therapist may give you an extended "reacher" so that you can retrieve items without bending from the hip.

Avoid sitting for more than 45 minutes in the first seven to ten days after your procedure. Some patients can drive a car within two to three weeks after surgery, but for others it may take longer.

Follow Your Exercise Regimen

You will be seeing a physical therapist, who will help you with strengthening and mobility exercises. Gradually, you will be able to put more weight on your leg. If your recovery progresses well, then normal activities can be resumed within six to eight weeks, although there may be some limitations.

For More Information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery website includes a detailed discussion of appropriate post-surgical activity levels after hip replacement surgery.  

The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers two easy-to-understand online tutorials about hip replacement surgery. The first includes information for people considering the procedure, and instructions for successful recovery. The second is a detailed tutorial on physical therapy after the surgery, including exercises and "Do’s and Don’ts."

See the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website for "Frequently Asked Questions about Hip Replacement." 

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. While recovering from hip replacement surgery, contact your physician or other healthcare provider with any questions, and follow all instructions.

Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance services.


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