Important things to remember in the first six weeks after hip replacement surgery.
- Sleep on your back, or on the un-operated side with a pillow between your legs
- Resurfacing hip replacement patients should use a walking stick for the full six weeks after surgery to minimize any risk of fracture while the joint is settling down.
- Patients should sit in chairs, which are at knee height or higher, with arm rests to enable you to get out of it easily. Deep lounge chairs should not be used.
- Do your best to keep your knees apart when bending to reach between your legs, rather than reaching to the outside of your leg.
- Don’t bend over to pick up and don’t lean forward to put on your stockings/socks and shoes
- Your hip should not be flexed more than 90 degrees (ie. pull up your leg to your body)
- It is advisable to avoid lifting or carrying anything heavy
- Do not cross your legs when you are sitting down, standing up or lying down.
Generally, a wound from hip replacement surgery requires very little care. Most people have sutures that dissolve themselves and do not require removal. Before leaving the hospital, your dressing will be changed. It is important to keep the wound dry.
Patients who have the anterior approach hip replacement must take extra care with wound care and not allow the wound to become moist in the hip crease, as this can make superficial infection more likely. In some cases, if the wound is inflamed or oozing, oral antibiotics may be required for a short period of time. If this occurs, you should contact Professor Walter’s rooms, the Mater hospital or your GP immediately. The wound should be covered until it has healed.
Patients can proceed with hydrotherapy 4 weeks after surgery, if they meet the following criteria:
- Wound is clean and dry with no scabs, drainage or blisters
- Wound is reviewed by rehabilitation physician prior to doing hydrotherapy.
Please contact the office if you are at all concerned about participating in hydrotherapy.
Professor Walter is up-to-date with recent research and does not require routine wearing of TED stockings. However, if there is swelling or a history of DVT (deep venous thrombosis) or pulmonary embolism you will be asked to wear them for a period of time.
Patients generally only need Panadol or Panadeine after discharge from hospital. Professor Walter will ask you to see your GP if stronger pain medication is needed, as your GP is in the best position to manage your overall health and all your medications. Professor Walter does not prescribe narcotics to patients after they leave hospital.
During the first six weeks after your surgery, we recommend limiting your activities to walking with support, gentle swimming in the shallow end once you have been given permission to get the wound wet. We recommend you refrain from exercises such as pilates, golf and social tennis until three months after the date of your surgery. High impact activities such as running/jogging and activities which put your body into extreme poses, such as yoga, are not recommended at any time after hip replacement. If you are enthusiastic about a particular sport, please seek instructions from Dr Walter, as there are often ways you can modify your movement to keep your hip safe.
You can have sex whenever you feel ready, although you are advised to be the “passive” partner during the first six weeks and remember to avoid positions which involve internal rotation of the hip or leg. Professor Walter has done some interesting research, which shows improvement in sexual function in women after hip replacement surgery. Read about this study.
The Roads & Traffic Authority recommends you should generally not drive for six weeks following a hip replacement. In order to be safe driving a car after a hip replacement, you must be able to control the pedals properly and you must not be taking strong pain medications that could impair your judgement or reaction time. As you get to the six-week mark, ask yourself if you would be able to stop quickly if a pedestrian ran in front of your vehicle. If you feel you could not react quickly enough, wait a little longer.
It is usually safe to take a short flight a week after surgery as long as you do not have blood clots in your legs. Long flights are best avoided during the first few months after surgery, as there is a risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in the legs). If you must travel, we recommend you wear TED stockings, mobilise throughout the flight as much as possible and if possible keep your legs elevated when seated during the flight. If it is necessary to travel long distances, then speak to your GP or Dr Walter prior to doing so.
Infections (and a special note about your teeth)
After joint replacement, (even years after your surgery) pay particular attention to infections anywhere on the body, and deal with them immediately. Pay special attention to tooth decay and mouth infections, as these may be a cause of infection in joint replacement. If you need to visit your dentist, tell them you have had a joint replacement and give them a copy of the current advice from the Arthroplasty Society of Australia, which outlines recommendations for mouth care after joint replacement surgery.