Preparing For Joint-Replacement Surgery
Taking The Necessary Steps
This information is a brief overview of the joint-replacement surgery experience.
It does not replace any instructions provided by your physician. You should
discuss this information with your physician.
Four weeks before surgery
You may find it helpful to learn about your joint anatomy and joint-replacement surgery.
Three weeks before surgery
Ask family and friends for support. They can help you with activities such
as driving and moving items in your home for safety. The Arthritis Foundation
has a support network that can provide emotional support. You can contact
your local chapter or go to the Arthritis Foundation Website (www.arthritis.org) for more information.
Prepare your home for your return from the hospital:
Bath – Put a nonskid mat in your bathtub. Consider an elevated toilet
seat. It may reduce stress on your hips and knees as you sit and stand.
A bathtub seat (bench) allows you to sit while bathing for increased safety
and comfort. Place a shelf in the shower at chest height to reduce bending
to retrieve items. A long-handled bath sponge may be used to reach lower
legs. Women can purchase razor extenders to shave their legs.
Floors – Check the safety of your home to prevent falls or tripping. Remove
rugs. Move long electrical and telephone cords against the wall.
Furniture – You may want to prepare a bed on the main level of your home to
reduce the need to climb stairs. Have an elevated chair or high seated
chair with arms in every room, if possible.
Kitchen – Make and freeze meals, or stock up on frozen dinners to simplify
meal preparation. You should plan on making enough meals for at least
one week. Put frequently used items like canned foods and cleaning supplies
in easy-to-reach cabinets. Avoid very low or very high shelves that would
require kneeling or using a footstool.
Two weeks before surgery
- Your physician may not want you to take any aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
medicines such as Advil, Ibuprofen, and Motrin for the 10 days before
surgery. If you take heart medicines, your physician will tell you how
to take those medicines. Tylenol or medicines with acetaminophen may be
allowed. Ask your physician.
- Purchase or borrow the special equipment your physician recommends. This
may include an elevated commode and small devices such as a grabber. Items
are available at Heritage Medical Equipment and Supplies’ two locations,
and other sources. Practice using the items at home.
Ten days before surgery
Call supermarkets and pharmacies to see if they provide delivery service and if they charge a fee. Shop for items you may need when you return
from the hospital or arrange for home delivery.
Go to a joint-replacement surgery class at Great River Medical Center. The class time will be scheduled for you
by our staff.
If you are taking heart medicines, your physician will tell you how to take them before surgery. Tylenol
or medicines with acetaminophen may be allowed. Ask your physician.
Make a list of all of the medicine you take, the doses and how often. Bring this to your pre-admission visit to the hospital.
Pre-admit to the hospital three to nine days before your surgery. Ask your surgeon if an appointment
is necessary. Your insurance will be verified and, depending on your surgeon’s
instructions, you may have laboratory work, X-rays, and an EKG. Plan at
least two and one-half hours to complete the visit. You may receive a
breathing exerciser. A nurse will review written directions for the exerciser.
If you have receipts from the blood you or your family has donated, give
them to the nurse in the Preadmission area. Anesthesia staff may discuss
anesthesia with you.
Manage your finances. You may want to balance your checkbook, pay bills, make arrangements to
board pets and stop the delivery of your newspaper. If you are going to
a rehabilitation facility after being discharged from the hospital, you
can request that mail be held at the post office until you return home.
Week of surgery
A list of items you may want to pack for your hospital stay is below. Your
physician may have additional information about preparing for your hospital stay.
Breathing exerciser, if you have received one.You probably will need this right after surgery.
Check with your physician.
Clothing – Robe, undergarments, slippers or flat rubber-soled shoes for walking,
and loose-fitting clothes for your trip home
Medicines – Bring all medicines you are taking. Also, write down your medication
information and give it to hospital staff. Include the name, dose and
how often you take each medicine. Please tell your physician and nursing
staff if you have any medication allergies.
Money – Bring only enough money for items such as newspapers and magazines.Leave
your checkbook, credit cards, jewelry, keys and other items of value at home.
Personal grooming items – Comb or brush, contact lenses, deodorant, electric razor, eyeglasses,
lotion, shampoo, toothbrush, and toothpaste
Night before surgery
You may want to read an overview of your procedure. Eating or drinking
(not even water) after midnight may not be allowed. Ask your surgeon.
Your anesthesiologist may prescribe a medicine for you to take the evening
Day of surgery
Report to the hospital at least two hours before your scheduled surgery.
Nurses will complete your surgery preparation and likely will review your
care following surgery. Leave your personal belongings in the car until
after surgery. Your family can bring them to your room after it has been
assigned. This will happen when you are in surgery or recovery.
Ask your physician how you may feel after surgery. You may be nauseated,
dizzy, weak, loss of appetite, and have constipation. You probably will
experience pain, but patients usually feel better a few days after surgery.
Your pain will be managed through your IV or by pills.
first meal after surgery likely will be ice chips and clear liquids. You will progress to solid
foods as tolerated. Check with your physician about your first meal.
catheter may have been placed in your bladder during surgery. It usually is removed
when you can get out of bed to use the bedside commode or restroom. As
you recover, walking to the restroom will build your strength and prepare
you for discharge home.
Feeding yourself and washing your face and upper body will be among the first self-care tasks you do.
Eventually, you will be able to bathe yourself with a little help around
your surgery area.
bandage will probably be changed once or twice a day.
You typically are allowed to have
visitors after you have been moved from the recovery room and into your own room.
If you prefer not to have visitors, please tell the nurse.
Your surgeon will visit you and your physical therapist will begin
You will be discharged from the hospital when your physician feels the
time is right. This typically is five days after surgery. You will need
to make arrangements for someone to drive you home from the hospital.
Your therapist will review how to get in and out of a car.
Depending on your situation, your physician may recommend that you be transferred
to a rehabilitation facility after you are discharged from the hospital.
You may be there a few days so you can begin physical therapy and your
health can be monitored.
When you return home:
Get pain medicine. Your surgeon probably will give you a prescription for pain medicine.
You likely will need less each day, but you may need to continue it at
night for a while. Check with your physician. Do not drink alcoholic beverages
while you are taking pain medicine. Some people find that Tylenol and
aspirin [NOT IBUPROFEN?] will relieve their pain.
Follow your surgeon’s instructions. Discuss with your surgeon before hospital discharge:
Constipation is a common problem for patients after surgery. It usually is caused by
limited activity and pain medicines. Discuss your diet with your physician.
It should include fresh fruits and vegetables, and eight full glasses
of liquid each day unless your physician tells you otherwise.
Diet – A well-balanced diet will help your body heal.
Housecleaning. Your physician will tell you when it is okay to mop, sweep and vacuum.
Use long-handled feather dusters for dusting high and low items.
Resting. You probably will tire more easily than usual. You may want to plan a
rest period of 30 to 60 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
Sitting. It is safer and easier to get in and out of chairs using both arms. To
increase your comfort, use a cushion or pillow to raise your body while
seated. Avoid low or overstuffed furniture.
Vehicles – You may ride in a car, but you must follow your physician’s
instructions for how to get in and out of the vehicle. You can raise the
height of the car seat with pillows to protect your hips and knees. Your
physician will tell you when you can drive – typically four to six
weeks after surgery. Make sure you can break the car without discomfort
before you attempt to drive in traffic. If you have a car with manual
transmission, talk with your physician about driving limitations.
Walking aids. If you will be using a walker or crutches to assist with walking, ask
your physician how much weight you may put on your operated joint.
Wound care. Some swelling around the incision is normal.You will find it more comfortable
to wear loose clothing to avoid pressure on the incision. When you are
discharged, your bandage may be removed and replaced with a smaller bandage.
Change the bandage as recommended by your physician, usually once a day.
Call your physician if you notice any signs of infection.
One week after surgery
Post-operative appointment. If you don’t already have a post-operative appointment, call your
surgeon’s office a day or two after you arrive home to make an appointment.
It usually is two weeks after your surgery.
Visitors. You may want to wait a few days after you are home from the hospital or
rehabilitation facility before welcoming visitors. This will allow you
to rest and become comfortable in your home setting.
Two Weeks After Surgery
Wear loose-fitting clothing to your post-operative appointment. Your surgeon
will examine the surgery area checking for signs of infection. Your stitches
or staples likely will be removed. Your range of motion will be checked,
and you will review your physical therapy instructions. You likely will
return for follow-up appointments at three months, six months and one
year after your surgery, and yearly thereafter.