Recovering from Joint Replacement Surgery

Leaders in Orthopaedic Surgery

Knowing what to expect after surgery can turn out to be a considerable help for a smoother recovery. Use our patient guide to help you understand your recovery from a joint replacement procedure.

In the recovery room, you will be stabilized and taken care of until you are awake, able to talk and you are displaying proper bodily functions. You may have a bandage covering your surgical site, a tube draining the fluid away from the incision, or a drain in your bladder (a catheter) that will be taken out soon after surgery.

Once your surgery is complete, and you are prepared to leave the recovery room, your care team will:

  • Move you to a private hospital suite, where your family and friends can meet you.
  • Visit you every hour to check your vital signs and help control your pain.
  • Work with you to manage your pain throughout your stay in the hospital so that you will be kept comfortable and be able to breathe easily, sleep well, walk and work toward a swift recovery.

Feeling pain after surgery and while healing is expected. Let us know if your medication is not helping, so we can try other ways to treat your pain without generating any addiction.

What to Expect During Recovery

All our efforts will be directed at making sure that you have a successful surgery and recovery. Helping you heal faster and avert any post-op issues requires:

  • Assisting you in getting out of bed and walking.
  • Keeping compression sleeves or foot pumps on your legs to help stop blood clots in your legs or lungs.
  • Taking only prescribed medications.
  • Continuing deep breathing exercises to keep your lungs clear and preventing pneumonia.
  • Doing all the exercises that your physical therapist assigned you.
  • Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated.
  • Eating healthy foods to help you get strong again.
  • Talking to your care team right away to address any questions or concerns.

Going Home from the Hospital

  • Depending on your surgeon, you may go home the same day after your surgery or stay up to one to two nights.
  • Our case managers will coordinate any needed equipment such as a walker, crutches, bedside commode, etc.
  • You will be able to go home safely once you can walk and do your exercises, and your doctor says you are ready for discharge.
  • Your care team will give you instructions for medications, showering, and how to take care of your incision site.

Pain Medications and Follow-up Prescriptions

If you received your prescriptions before surgery, be sure to have them filled before having surgery.

Pain medications can induce constipation, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fiber foods to prevent this problem.

When to Call Your Surgeon

Bruising, swelling, pain, and skin discoloration are normal, but if you experience any of the symptoms below, you should call your surgeon:

  • Fever above 101.5 degrees.
  • Mild fever that lasts over five days.
  • Redness or swelling at the incision site.
  • After applying a new dressing or bandage, in less than six hours, the liquid emerging from your incision site soaks it.
  • The incision site smells bad.
  • Your incisions open.
  • Pain in your calf or lower leg.
  • Severe pain that does not improve when you take pain medications.

You need to dial 911 or head to the nearest emergency room if you experience:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Incision Care and Hygiene

Your surgeon will make sure that you know the best bandage for your incisions and how to care for them as they heal. Until you heal, it is vital to keep your dressing and incisions clean and dry. Your care specialist will let you know when it is safe to take a shower.

If your incisions were closed with staples, they would be removed during your post-op visit with your surgeon.

Managing Swelling

While swelling is expected after surgery, you can keep it down by putting ice packs on the swollen area. It will increase the first 10 to 14 days post-op before beginning to resolve. However, make sure not to put the ice pack on your bare skin.

Bruising is common—especially behind the thigh and/or lower leg. Please do not be alarmed by this.

It will be at its worst two weeks after surgery and it will then resolve with time. It can take over one month for swelling or bruising to resolve completely. You may elevate your legs and use ice packs. Continue to do your assigned exercises to keep the circulation going.

Post-Surgery Activity

Post-surgery physical therapy is essential for healing, taking about three to six weeks to recover your strength. Your surgeon will inform you of the recommended physical therapy regimen.

Feeling weak and tired is normal, so get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Keep in mind, your goal is to return to your normal activity level, so movement/activities are just as important as rest.

Under your surgeon’s discretion, these are the types of activities that you can do at home:

  • Walking—this is the best activity you can do after exercises
  • Isometric exercises
  • Range of motion exercises

Make sure not to sit for more than one to two hours at a time, as it is not beneficial for your joints.

Dental Work After Surgery

Prevent infection by avoiding any dental work for at least three months after surgery. Talk to your treating doctor and your dentist before deciding to take any antibiotics before dental procedures, like teeth cleaning, root canals and tooth removal.

Our Patients Usually Ask These Questions After Surgery

Blood clots can develop on either leg, even the one that did not undergo surgery. They can be dangerous and cause severe medical conditions.

Common symptoms depend on the size of the clot and include:

  • Increasing pain, tenderness, or cramps in one or both legs
  • Swelling or lumps in either leg
  • Warm skin or red discoloration at the surgical site

Call your surgeon immediately if you fear you may have a blood clot.

You need to get in touch right away with your primary care provider if you experience an upset stomach or vomiting, constipation, or any of the following issues when urinating:

  • Burning sensation
  • Urgency (rushing to the bathroom)
  • Frequency (going to the bathroom more than usual)