Surgery for a hip fracture repairs a broken hip bone. When you leave the hospital after surgery, 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 for the next few weeks or until you have more energy and can move around better. If there is no one to help you at home, you may go to a rehabilitation center or long-term care center.
You will go home with a bandage and stitches or staples. You can remove the bandage when your doctor tells you to. Your doctor will remove your stitches or staples 10 days to 3 weeks after your surgery. You may still have some mild pain, and the area may be swollen for 3 to 4 months after surgery. Your doctor will give you medicine for the pain.
You will continue the rehabilitation program (rehab) you started in the hospital. The better you do with your rehab exercises, the quicker you will get your strength and movement back. Most people are able to return to work 4 weeks to 4 months after surgery. But it may take 6 months to 1 year for you to fully recover. Some people, especially older people, are never able to move quite as well as they used to.
You heal best when you take good care of yourself. Eat a variety of healthy foods, and don't smoke.
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?
- 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 may be able to take frequent, short walks using crutches or a walker. You will probably have to use crutches or a walker for at least 4 to 6 weeks. After that, you may need to use a cane to help you walk.
- Do not sit for longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time. When you sit, use chairs with arms, and don't sit in low chairs.
- 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. Don't sleep on your stomach or affected hip.
- Ask your doctor when it is okay to bathe or shower.
- Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
- Most people are able to return to work 4 weeks to 4 months after surgery.
- Ask your doctor when it is okay for you to have sex.
- Do not lift anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child.
- 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.
- Continue to drink plenty of fluids. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
- Eat healthy foods, and watch your portion sizes. Try to stay at your ideal weight. Too much weight puts more stress on your hip joint.
- You may notice that your bowel movements are not regular right after your surgery. This is common. Try to avoid constipation and straining with bowel movements. You may want to take a fiber supplement every day. If you have not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, ask your doctor about taking a mild laxative.
- Your doctor may want you to take calcium supplements and eat foods high in calcium, such as milk, cheese, ice cream, and salmon with bones. These help stop bone loss. Orange juice and soy milk with added calcium are also good choices.
- Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also be given 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. If you take a blood thinner, 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 necessary, your doctor will tell you how to do this.
- Be safe with medicines. Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
- 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 you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
- Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
- Ask your doctor for a different pain 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.
- You will have a bandage over the cut (incision) and staples or stitches. If there is no drainage, most doctors will let you take the bandage off in a few days.
- Your doctor will remove the staples or stitches 10 days to 3 weeks after the surgery and replace them with strips of tape. Leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
- Your rehab program will include a number of exercises to do. Always do them as your therapist tells you.
- Do not do any vigorous exercise for 12 weeks or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
Ice and elevation
- Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake). Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- 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. The length of time that you will 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.
- Follow these tips to prevent falls:
- Arrange furniture so that you won't 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:
- Your leg or foot is cool or pale or changes color.
- You cannot feel or move your leg.
- You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
- Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
- 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.
- A fever.
Watch closely for any 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.
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