After surgery to replace the ball of your hip joint, you will probably be walking with crutches or a walker. You may be able to climb a few stairs and get in and out of bed and chairs. But you will need someone to help you at home until you have more energy and can move around better.
You'll go home with a bandage and stitches, staples, skin glue, or tape strips. You can remove the bandage when your doctor tells you to. If you have stitches or staples, your doctor will remove them about 2 weeks after your surgery. Glue or tape strips will fall off on their own over time. You may still have some mild pain and the area may be swollen for 3 to 4 months after surgery. Your doctor may give you medicine for the pain.
You will keep doing the rehabilitation program (rehab) you started in the hospital. The better you do with your rehab exercises, the sooner you will get your strength and movement back. Most people are able to go back to work 4 weeks to 4 months after surgery.
This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Your doctor may not want your affected leg to cross the center of your body toward the other leg. If so, your therapist may suggest these ideas:
- Do not cross your legs.
- Be very careful as you get in or out of bed or a car. Don't let your leg cross the imaginary line in the middle of your body.
- Rest when you feel tired. You may take a nap, but don't stay in bed all day.
- Work with your physical therapist to learn the best way to exercise. You will probably have to use a walker, crutches, or a cane for a few weeks.
- Try not to sit for too long at one time. You will feel less stiff if you take a short walk about every hour. When you sit, use chairs with arms. Don't sit in low chairs.
- Do not bend over more than 90 degrees (like the angle in a letter "L").
- Sleep on your back with your legs slightly apart or on your side with a pillow between your knees for about 6 weeks or as your doctor tells you. Do not sleep on your stomach or affected leg.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
- By the time you leave the hospital, you will probably be eating your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt. Your doctor may recommend that you take iron and vitamin supplements.
- Eat healthy foods, and watch your portion sizes. Try to stay at your ideal weight. Too much weight puts more stress on your new hip joint.
- If your bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, try to avoid constipation and straining. Drink plenty of water. Your doctor may suggest fiber, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.
- Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
- If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
- If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
- If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
- Your doctor may give you a blood-thinning medicine to prevent blood clots for a few weeks after surgery. Be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems. This medicine could be in pill form or as a shot (injection). If a shot is needed, your doctor will tell you how to do this.
- If your doctor told you how to care for your cut (incision), follow your doctor's instructions. You will have a dressing over the cut. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
- If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
- If you have strips of tape on the cut the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
- If you have stitches or staples, your doctor will tell you when to come back to have them removed.
- If you have skin glue on the cut, leave it on until it falls off. Skin glue is also called skin adhesive or liquid stitches.
- Change the bandage every day.
- Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
- You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing.
- You may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. Pat the incision dry. Don't swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
- Your rehab program will include a number of exercises to do. Always do them as your therapist tells you.
Ice and elevation
- For pain, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin. If your doctor recommended cold therapy using a portable machine, follow the instructions that came with the machine.
- Your ankle may swell for about 3 months. Prop up your ankle when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
- Continue to wear your compression stockings as your doctor says. These help to prevent blood clots. How long you'll have to wear them depends on your activity level and the amount of swelling you have. Most people wear these stockings for 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
- Preventing falls is also very important. To prevent falls:
- Arrange furniture so that you will not trip on it.
- Get rid of throw rugs, and move electrical cords out of the way.
- Walk only in areas with plenty of light.
- Put grab bars in showers and bathtubs.
- Try to avoid icy or snowy sidewalks. Choose shoes with good traction, or consider using traction devices that attach to your shoes.
- Wear shoes with sturdy, flat soles.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You passed out (lost consciousness).
- You have severe trouble breathing.
- You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have signs that your hip may be dislocated, including:
- Severe pain and not being able to stand.
- A crooked leg that looks like your hip is out of position.
- Not being able to bend or straighten your leg.
- Your leg or foot turns cold or pale or changes color.
- You cannot feel or move your leg.
- You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
- You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
- You have loose stitches.
- Your incision comes open and begins to bleed, or the bleeding increases.
- You feel like your heart is racing or beating irregularly.
- You have signs of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the incision.
- Pus draining from the incision.
- Swollen lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, or groin.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- You do not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.
- You do not get better as expected.
Where can you learn more?
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