In the United States, approximately 435,000 adults annually have a hip or knee replaced with a prosthetic joint. This number continues to grow each year as the population ages and because joint replacement surgery has a strong success rate. If you and your medical team decide that surgery is the best option, learn the steps you can take before and after to maximize the healing process.
Prepare Before Your Surgery
Before undergoing surgery, there are things you can prepare ahead of time to help with your recovery success. First, make sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have about the procedure and your post-operative instructions. Here are a few things to consider before surgery:
- Find support – Since it may take some time before you are able to fully move and walk, you will need support after your surgery. Find family members or friends who are able to help you around the house, especially if you live alone. Another option is to arrange for a professional in-home caregiver to come to the home to help with bathing, meal preparation, medication reminders, transportation to physical therapy, and companionship.
- Consider home safety – Assess your home for safety risks that may make it more difficult to move around following surgery. Remove loose rugs, cords, and clutter in the walkways. If you have stairs, it may help to relocate to the main floor during your recovery. Consider other safety measures you could install such as safety bars or a bench in the shower or handrails for the stairs.
- Plan for a ride home – Make sure to arrange for transportation home following your surgery since you will be unable to drive.
- Bank your blood – If your surgery may require a blood transfusion, and if you are scheduling the procedure ahead of time, you might be able to store your own blood in case it is needed during your surgery. Check with your doctor to see if preoperative autologous donation (PAD) is recommended for you.
- Ask your doctor about supplements – In addition to eating a healthy diet, some vitamins may help your recovery if started before your procedure. There may also be supplements you should stop taking before having surgery. Some supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin, may interact with anticoagulants used to reduce the risk of blood clots, according to according to David T. Rispler, MD, director of the orthopedic residency program at Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners.
Tips to Improve Recovery After Joint Replacement Surgery
More than 90% of patients recover well and return to normal activities after their joint replacement surgery. There are several factors that can influence recovery, and recovery time will vary from person to person. Overall health, activity level before surgery, the severity of injury, and the type of surgery may affect the outcome and speed of recovery. Always make sure to follow your doctor’s post-operative recommendations. The following suggestions may also help improve your recovery:
- Keep moving – If your doctor recommends it, getting out of bed several times per day and walking as you’re able may be beneficial. Make sure to have someone nearby who can help you if needed. It’s important to make sure you are moving around safely.
- Scar management – Proper care of your scar will help you avoid infection while improving healing. Follow medical advice for replacing your dressing.
- Eat healthy foods – After surgery, you may not feel up to eating your usual meals. Smaller, more frequent meals may be easier to eat to start. Help heal yourself while fueling your body with a variety of foods to make sure you get the right nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provide fiber for bowel health and preventing constipation. Lean protein, such as poultry and seafood, helps with healing and recovery. Dehydration can be common after surgery, so make sure to drink plenty of water.
- Avoid too much sun – Sunlight can be helpful in small amounts to help us absorb Vitamin D, but too much can be problematic. Scars can burn more easily and lead to skin discoloration. If you’ll be outdoors, make sure to use proper dressings over your incision to block UV rays, or apply sunscreen with SPF-30 or higher, according to your doctor’s recommendations.
- Avoid alcohol – Alcohol may cause wounds or infections to heal more slowly. Alcohol may also interfere with pain medications following surgery.
- Avoid bathing, showering, and swimming – Follow your doctor’s recommendations for when it is safe to bathe or shower. You may be advised to wait because bathing or swimming can lead to infections of the wound or may weaken the skin at the incision site. Warm water may also affect any adhesives used to close incisions.
- Cough – Coughing may help prevent respiratory issues, such as mucus building up in the lungs, especially after anesthesia. Coughing may also help reduce the risk of pneumonia. Depending on the type of surgery, you may need to cough or sneeze while holding a pillow for pressure to avoid opening your incision.
- Follow your physical therapy/rehab program – Committing to your exercise regimen, as prescribed by your medical team, will help with your recovery process.
By following your rehabilitation program/physical therapy and doctor’s orders, it’s likely you’ll be feeling stronger and have less pain within a few months. Overall recovery time will be different for each person. Always make sure to check with your doctor or medical team with any questions you have throughout the process.
To help with recovery after joint replacement surgery, a professional in-home caregiver may be the perfect solution! Nightingale Homecare offers a variety of home care services ranging from non-medical care, including light housekeeping, meal preparation, errands, transportation to appointments, and companionship, to nursing and therapy services for wound care, physical therapy, and more. We also offer a specialized Orthopedic Rehabilitation home program. Contact our Phoenix in-home care experts at (602) 504-1555 to learn about our home care services that can help individuals recover from surgery in the comfort of home. Visit our Locations Served page to see all of the communities where we provide care.