Hip and knee replacement are extremely effective at improving or eliminating hip and knee pain and dysfunction. While some patients will experience these tremendous improvements in pain and function very quickly, the typical recovery period is more modest occurring over a 6-12 week timeframe. Having appropriate recovery expectations can help to avoid set-backs from “over-doing it” and can actually lead to a more efficient recovery.
Immediately following surgery
Directly following surgery, you will arrive in the recovery room (PACU). Most patients are very comfortable at this time due to the numbing medication injected in the joint during surgery, but pain medication will be available if needed. You will likely notice the sequential compression device on your leg to promote blood circulation and prevent blood clots. For primary, uncomplicated hip or knee replacements, Dr. Melvin does not routinely use a urinary catheter.
It’s very possible the hospital or surgery center staff will want you standing and bearing weight on your joint replacement later today, and you’ll be walking with support before you go home. The faster you mobilize your joint after surgery, the faster your recovery. However, remember, recovery is a process, and it will take time for your joint to heal; so be patient.
During the first few days following surgery, you will still be taking medication to help with any pain that is lingering. Try to minimize or avoid narcotic pain medication if possible as there are many side effects associated with these medications. Dr. Melvin’s multi-modal pain regimen will help you to minimize or avoid these medications. Additionally, you may work with a physical therapist or follow instructional videos to ensure the hip or knee is being moved and exercised appropriately. Mobilization following a hip or knee replacement is crucial, as it allows your body to adapt to the new implant. The primary goal of mobilization is to allow your hip or knee to perform daily activities such as walking, climbing stairs and getting in and out of a car.
Following joint replacement surgery, patients may go home the same day or have a short hospital stay. Dr. Melvin is able to minimize or eliminate the hospital stay through his minimally invasive procedures and muscle sparing technique, multimodal pain control regimen, and his thorough preparation and recovery pathway. This applies to both hip and knee replacement. Once patients go home, the recovery process continues.
Long-term use of your new hip or knee implant depends greatly upon the care that is taken in the months following surgery. Dr. Melvin will provide specific instructions for care, helping you to ensure that your joint reaches its maximal potential.
Once you go home, keep an eye on your bandage. Prior to discharge from the hospital or surgery center, Dr. Melvin or the hospital staff will instruct you on how to care for your incision and Aquacel bandage. Most of the time, you should leave your bandage in place until you return to the office and you may shower if the bandage is completely sealed. If the bandage peals up, becomes dislodged or saturated, you may remove it and cover with sterile gauze or an appropriately sized (20cm or 30cm) Primapore dressing (these can be purchased on Amazon).
Rehab and physical therapy will continue with a therapist or, in some cases via instructional video, once you go home. This will continue until you have regained maximum range of motion of your knee or hip and are able to operate completely independently. Most patients achieve maximal rehabilitation within several months following surgery. In addition to therapy, you should take part in short walks and other mild activities. If there is any soreness, you should cut down the gradient and apply a cold pack, but don’t stop completely. Continued movement is vital to a full recovery.
Most importantly, the office of Dr. Melvin is always available during your recovery period. If there is any trouble, we want to know about it. Any questions or concerns will be addressed rapidly, and if you even want to come by and see us, that will be encouraged. However, we will not simply wait for complications to see you—after your surgery, you will be asked to schedule follow-up appointments so Dr. Melvin can monitor the recovery process.
Even once you have returned to your full physical capacity, it is important to remain active. Rarely does Dr. Melvin place "official" restrictions on your activity, although Dr. Melvin would prefer low impact exercises over high impact exercises or contact sports going forward. Dr. Melvin will continue to see you over the years to ensure that the joint is wearing and functioning properly. At any point following your surgery, his office will be available as a resource for any questions or worries that may arise. At the office of Dr. Melvin, our first priority is our patients’ well-being. Please call us if you have any questions or concerns.