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Common Questions Before Joint Replacement Surgery

Is the procedure successful?

Statistics show that 90 to 100% of patients are extremely satisfied with either hip or knee replacement.

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How long is the surgery?

The actual surgery time is usually about an hour to an hour and a half for hip or knee surgery; however with the time needed to setup anesthesia in the operating room, plan on two to three hours.

What's the recovery time?

Everybody heals differently, but most patients spend three days in the hospital for hip or knee replacement. The first week to two weeks will be the worst, and we ask that you spend that time in true "couch potato" fashion. During that time, you will have either a short inpatient rehab stay or a home physical therapist. Both of these options have pluses and minuses—you and your surgeon will come up with a plan together that is comfortable.

In the first two weeks, you'll use a walker in and out of the house. During the second two weeks, you will work with the therapist to transition to a cane. Even if you are feeling good, be sure to use your cane to prevent falls.After a month, if you haven't already, you can stop using the cane in the house. Have it available when outdoors to prevent fatigue, and so others will pay more attention not to bump you. This period of protective assistive device use can last for two to three months, but is usually much shorter. The plan is to lessen your need for an assistive device while maintaining safety.

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When can I shower or swim?

In most cases, the bandage placed after surgery is waterproof, so you can shower when you are ready. Do not immerse the incision for a month, but in most cases the incision is healed/sealed in two weeks, and it is then okay to bathe. If you have any continued drainage, you should not immerse the wound. If you have stitches or staples on the outside, you should wait two or three days after removal before bathing.


When do my sutures come out?

Your surgeon will try to keep all stitches under the skin, but if stitches or staples are used, they will be removed in two weeks. Removal of your stitches/staples will be done in the office or by your therapist. Usually, our staff places tape strips over the incision for a week or so.

How long do I need a bandage?

It is a good idea to keep the plastic dressing on for two weeks so that you can shower; but the bandage can be removed in a week if you prefer. Be sure to change bandages in a sterile fashion.

Will I need physical therapy?

Yes. Our staff will set up home physical therapy sessions to work on range of motion, walking, and strength immediately after surgery. Therapy also can be done in a rehab facility or in outpatient therapy. Therapy duration ranges from a few weeks to two months. Often, a therapist can prescribe and teach a set of exercises that you can perform alone along with occasional sessions to monitor your progress. Some unsupervised activities can be the most beneficial—particularly stationary bikes (regular or recumbent) and swimming.

When can I drive?

It ranges. If you had a hip or knee replacement on your right leg, you should not drive for a month due to decreased reaction time and strength.If you have had a joint replaced on your left side, then you can return to driving (an automatic transmission) when you are no longer using narcotics. Six weeks is a typical time frame to return to driving. Be sure to practice in a parking lot until you are comfortable.

When can I return to work?

Hip replacements are easier than knee replacements to get moving, but in general you can expect: sedentary job hip replacement: 2-3 weeks, knee replacement: 3 to 4 weeks; rigorous standing or walking job—2 to 3 months.

How long will I need blood thinners?

About a month, but it can depend on your activity level. If you return to normal activities after a couple weeks, it is usually safe to discontinue a formal blood thinner. Many patients are recommended to continue taking either a full or baby strength aspirin.

How long do I need the compressive stockings?

Usually after the first couple weeks you can remove the stockings at night. While at home, you can remove the stockings and assess any ankle swelling. You should use the stockings until your ankle swelling is the same as it was before the surgery.

What activities are safe after the surgery?

  • Stairs—initially up with the nonoperative leg and down with the operative leg. You will probably get back to normal stair climbing at a month.
  • Early Recreation—most people can return to all normal activities, walking, yard or garden work and golf by six weeks. Twisting activities and those that require light jogging three (3) months.
  • Late Recreation—most will be able to perform daily activities without problems. More strenuous exercise should be limited. Lifting heavy weights, running/pounding or performing squats also should be limited after joint replacement surgery.

Do I need antibiotics?

Only 1 day following surgery, but antibiotics will be given lifelong for dental procedures.

Will I set off metal detectors?

Yes, there is potential to set off security metal detectors. It is much more common for knee replacements to set off detectors than hip. Wear clothing that will allow you to easily show the surgical scar.

What range of motion do I need?

You can get around with a very stiff knee if it is pain-free. Normal activities require the following motion for knee replacement: 70 degrees of motion for level walking, 90 degrees for going up stairs and 100 degrees to descend easily, 110 degrees to get up from a low chair without using your arms.

Getting your leg as straight as possible will decrease the energy required to walk and stand. Hip range of motion is generally not a problem to achieve.