Cedars Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital Alert: COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS) information for patients and visitors LEARN MORE >>

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.

Once your surgery is finalized, and you are prepared to leave the recovery room, we will:

  • Move you to a private hospital suite, where your family and friends can meet you.
  • Your care team will 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 around easily and ensure 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.

In the recovery room, you will be stabilized and taken care of until you are awake and able to talk, 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.

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-operative issues requires:

  • Assisting you to get out of bed and walk
  • 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 prevent 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

You will be able to go home safely once you can walk and do your exercises, and your surgeon says you are ready. Before leaving, your case manager will make sure that your discharge plan is adequate and you are instructed in-home care, having everything you need to heal at home.

You need to be aware of when to take your medications, shower, and how to take care of your incision site.

Suppose you no longer need hospital care, but it isn't safe for you to go home. In that case, your joint surgery ambulatory care manager will collaborate with your surgeon and hospital case manager to find you a proper recovery place (a skilled nursing facility). In there, you might stay for two to five days before returning home.

Pain Medications and Follow-up Prescriptions

You will receive a list of pain medications before leaving the hospital and be instructed on how to take them. If the prescriptions need to be filled, your care team can order and bring them to your room in advance.

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
  • Experiencing 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 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-operative visit with your surgeon.

Managing Swelling

While swelling is normal after surgery, you can keep it down by putting ice packs on the swollen area. However, make sure not to put the ice pack on your bare skin

Recovering at Home

Your case manager will call you at home 24 to 48 hours after leaving the hospital, asking how you feel and answering any questions, and making sure that you have all the prescribed medications and made the follow-up appointment with your surgeon.

If you are a HealthLoop member, you will receive email reminders from your doctor about your follow-up care for up to 17 days after leaving the hospital.

Physical Therapy

Post-surgery physical therapy is essential for healing, taking about three to six weeks to recover your strength. Feeling weak and tired is normal, so do not rush the healing process by going back to work or starting your regular activities too early.

Some of the types of exercises done in physical therapy are:

  • Using your body weight as resistance – for strengthening
  • Range-of-motion exercises that help bend and stretch your muscles around your new joint
  • Stabilization exercises to ensure balance and build up the muscles around your new joint

Make sure not to sit for more than two to three hours, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

You should be able to stop using your walking frame or crutches and get back to your normal leisure activities within six weeks after the surgery. However, it can take up to three months for the pain to settle down and up to a year for a complete recovery.

See Full Answer

For 80–90% of people who have an artificial joint replacement, the new one typically lasts 20 years. The more demanding your lifestyle is, the faster it will wear out.

See Full Answer

Joint replacement is a surgical procedure during which a damaged or arthritic joint is replaced with an orthopedic prosthesis. It may be recommended as a treatment option if you suffer from severe joint pain.

See Full Answer

The postoperative pain is temporary and resolves within a few days. Recovery after a total joint replacement varies and is different for each individual.

See Full Answer

After hip surgery, your doctor will give you precise indications regarding your aftercare and all the precautions you should take once you are discharged.

See Full Answer