Preparing For Your Hip Replacement Surgery
Hip replacement is a life-changing step to end chronic pain and restore your quality of life. However, this is a major surgical procedure with an intense recovery period. It is wise to be as prepared as possible. Here are some things to consider.
Preparing Yourself For the Surgery
You want to face surgery with the strongest and healthiest body possible. Your surgeon will likely recommend attention to the following items in the weeks before surgery:
Eat well balanced, nutritious meals. However, the time just before surgery is not the time to diet or to add any new over-the-counter herbs, supplements or medications. Eat healthy foods and drink adequate water in the time leading up to surgery. Protein in particular will help your bones and muscles recover from surgery.
Make a careful list of all medications you take, including prescription drugs and any over-the-counter items you might purchase at the supermarket or drug store. Include vitamins, herbs and other supplements. You will need to show this list to your physician and other caretakers before surgery. Your doctor may recommend tapering off and stopping certain medications before your surgery date, as they can impact bleeding during the operation or interact with anesthesia or other medications you will be given during and after the surgery.
Smoking impacts your blood vessels and lungs, and can slow your recovery from surgery.
Ask your doctor about any exercises you should do before surgery. Exercises to strengthen your upper body will help you get around with crutches or a walker after surgery.
Video: Hip Exercises for Before Your Surgery
Certain exercises can help maintain the strength of your leg and hip muscles. You can practice them now to help prepare for your post-surgery rehabilitation.
Video: A Guide to Recovering After Hip Replacement Surgery
Get adequate sleep in the period before your surgery. You will want to be as rested as possible to face the impact of a major surgery.
Undergoing joint replacement surgery is a very big undertaking. For awhile after surgery, you will be more disabled than you were before and will need help from others just to perform basic tasks. You will also have to deal with pain after joint replacement surgery. You’ll want to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for these realities, gathering your inner strength and focusing on the ultimate outcome of better mobility. You might consider acquainting yourself with meditation techniques or use CDs or downloaded guided meditations that can ease your anxiety about surgery and focus your mind on the positive.
Major surgery almost always involves some blood loss. Talk to your doctor about the option of donating your own blood ahead of surgery, to be used if you need a transfusion. These donations must be completed well in advance of your surgery date.
Get a Disabled Parking Permit
You can get a temporary (6 month) disabled parking placard from the DMV to use while you recover from surgery. Be sure to get the forms, have your doctor sign them, and get the placard from DMV before your surgery.
Preparing Your Home For the Upcoming Surgery
When you return home from surgery, you will be dealing with post-surgical pain and will be less mobile than before while your joint heals. Your doctor and hospital staff will give you guidelines for preparing your home.
These guidelines may include the following:
- Assess the number of stairs, doorsills and other impediments to get in and out of your home and to get around inside your home. Your physical therapists in the hospital will train you in handling stairs.
- If you live in a two-story home, you should create a sleeping space downstairs for the first weeks following surgery.
- Measure the width of your doors and hallways. You should have at a minimum 30 inches of clearance in all areas you must navigate at home during the first few weeks. Remember that you will be using a walker and need to be able to turn around with the walker.
- Remove all throw rugs, cords and other obstructions to allow a wide path through the rooms of your home. You must avoid falling or slipping while your joint is healing.
- Make sure you have a chair with sturdy arms that you can use to help stand up and sit down. Consider a power lift chair.
See this Guide to Power Lift Chairs
- Measure your chair and/or couch and acquire cushions or firm pillows you can sit on to ensure your knees are always slightly lower than your hips. While you recover, you will not be able to bend your hip joint any tighter (closer to your body) than a 90 degree angle. You will also need a special, higher seat for the toilet and a shower or bath seat.
- Place objects you will need frequently – clothing, cooking utensils, etc – in new locations so you can reach them without bending down or reaching up.
- Look into assistive devices. You will need certain assistive devices to help you use the toilet, bathe, dress yourself, pick up items, and get in and out of chairs and your bed. Equipment most often used includes walker, shower chair, raised toilet seat, sock aid, and a reacher.
Preparing Your Caregivers and Loved Ones for the Surgery
When you first leave the hospital, you will need the help of others to perform basic activities like bathing, dressing and managing household chores like cooking and cleaning. Arrange for a family member or friend to be available to stay with you for the first week or two.
If you live alone or have no one who can fill this role, consider going to a specialized rehabilitation facility after discharge from the hospital. Your hospital should have a list of these facilities. You may want to arrange a visit ahead of time. Admission to a facility may be dependent on your insurance policy. Please review your insurance policy coverage beforehand.
Pain After Hip Replacement Surgery
Pain after joint replacement surgery is undoubtedly one of the things people fear most about the procedure. This is understandable, but pain after surgery can and should be managed. Pain control maximizes your ability to participate in therapy and recover as quickly as possible. Throughout your recovery, doctors, nurses and therapists will ask about your pain level, and it’s essential that you provide as much detail and honesty as possible.
Pain at the Hospital (Before and After Surgery)
While you’re still at the hospital, you should discuss your pain control options with your nurses and doctors.
- Let your healthcare providers know as soon as you begin having pain.
- Take your pain medication at regular times. Most pain medication taken by mouth needs at least 20-30 minutes to take effect.
- Rate your pain using the 1-10 pain scale. (Reporting your pain as a number helps the doctors and nurses know how well your treatment is working and whether or not to make any changes.)
A number of pain control options are available, including:
- Patient controlled analgesia (delivered through your IV)
- Oral medications prescribed by your doctor
- Pain pumps inserted at or near the surgical site during surgery
- Temporary nerve blocks administered prior to surgery by your anesthesiologist
- Ice, heat and other no-medicine options.
Common Questions about Pain after Surgery
Q. Could I become addicted to the pain medication?
A. It is rare to become addicted to medicine used for pain control. Addiction means a person is taking a medicine to satisfy emotional or psychological needs rather than for medical reasons. Addiction is often confused with “physical dependence”. Physical dependence occurs after you have been using a narcotic for prolonged periods of time. It is a chemical change in your body causing withdrawal symptoms when the medicine is abruptly stopped. This can be avoided by gradually reducing the dosage over several days. Physical dependence is not addiction.
Q. Could I build up a tolerance to the pain medication so it stops working?
A. For some medicines, after a person takes the same amount for a long period of time, the body doesn’t respond as well to the same amount. Larger or more frequent doses of medicine are needed to obtain the same effect. This is called “tolerance” and it sometimes happens in people who take narcotics for pain control over a long period of time. Following your surgery expect to take pain medication for a short period of time.
Q. What if I have side effects from the pain medication?
A. All drugs have potential side effects. Not everyone who takes a medicine will experience side effects. Some common side effects of narcotic medications are drowsiness, constipation, and nausea. Always discuss any side effects with your healthcare provider.
Q. What if I don’t take my pain medication?
A. You may not recover as quickly. Pain medication allows you to stay mobile and helps you get the most out of your exercises. Pain causes increased fatigue, which also slows recovery. Pain adds stress to yourself and your caregivers.
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