What to expect with hip and knee replacement

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Will I have any pain afterwards?

After your surgery, some pain is normal and is to be expected. The nursing staff will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to 10: zero being no pain, and 10 being the worst pain you have ever experienced. Our goal is to help you manage your pain and keep your score below a five.

What kind of hospital stay will I have?

After your surgery, you will move to our orthopedic unit. There, your care will be managed by a multidisciplinary team specially trained in working with joint surgery patients. The morning after your surgery, you will be visited by a physical therapist. Together with a case manager, they will determine the optimal plan for your recovery and discharge. Most patients spend as little as two to three nights in the hospital.

Walking and knee movement are important to your recovery and will begin the day after surgery; it is important to begin moving to get your blood flowing. This helps prevent blood clots and swelling in your legs, which can occur from lack of activity.

Will I need a blood transfusion?

The need for blood transfusions after knee replacement surgery depends greatly on individualized factors. Many physicians use an autotransfuser which returns your own blood back to you.

If you are interested in alternatives to blood transfusions, feel free to inquire whether a bloodless* medicine and surgery program is right for you. Your surgeon will be happy to discuss these issues with you.

*A bloodless procedure is a medical or surgical treatment without the use of banked (stored) allogenic blood or major blood components. Blood loss often occurs during surgery. A bloodless program endeavors to minimize blood loss by utilizing special bloodless conservation methods.

How long will my recuperation last?

Recovery varies with each person. It is essential that you follow your orthopedic surgeon's instructions regarding home care during the first few weeks after surgery - particularly the exercise program you are prescribed. You should be able to resume most light daily activities within three to six weeks following surgery. Some discomfort with activity, and at night, is common for several weeks. Complete recovery can take from about six to twelve weeks.

While most people will gradually increase activities that may include recreational walking and biking, swimming, golf and ballroom dancing, you will be advised to avoid more active sports such as jogging, tennis, high-impact aerobics, skiing, repetitive lifting exceeding 50 pounds, and contact sports. If you live alone, you may require a stay of a few days in a rehabilitation center or a skilled nursing unit after you leave the hospital. This will depend on how you progress in the hospital. Keep in mind that healing and recovery times vary with each person.

What are the possible complications?

As with any surgery, there is a risk of complications after any joint surgery. However, it is quite low. Blood clots are the most common post-surgery complication. To prevent blood clots from forming in your leg veins, your orthopedic surgeon may prescribe one or more measures, including special support hose, inflatable leg coverings and blood thinners. You may also receive antibiotics to help prevent infection.

Via Christi Joint Replacement Center Patient Checklist

Day before surgery

Pack a bag to bring to hospital:

  • Walking shoes
  • Personal care items: toothbrush, soap, etc., (We can supply these if necessary)
  • Loose fitting, comfortable clothing
  • If you have a walker, bring it with you to the hospital

Evening before or morning of surgery

  • Shower and remove all nail polish

Day of surgery

  • Leave non-essential valuables at home
  • Bring required documents:
    • Photo ID
    • Insurance Card

If Applicable 

  • Living Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Bring a list of all medications, nutritional supplements, allergies, and health conditions; include names and phone numbers of all physicians

During your hospital recovery

Stay safe: Do not attempt to get up by yourself. Tell your nurse when you're in pain

After your discharge from the hospital

  • Take pain pills as prescribed to manage pain
  • Follow personalized activity/exercise program taught by therapist
  • Visit orthopedic surgeon's office for post-operative care as directed by doctor


Related Content

Mercy Regional Orthopedics (Manhattan, KS)

Hip Replacement Health Information

Knee Replacement Health Information


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