Frequently Asked Questions
What is the recovery time?
Everyone heals from surgery at a different pace. By six weeks, many of our patients - but not all patients have resumed their daily activities. During the first three months, many patients will make progress in strengthening their body and increasing their levels of activity. Since everyone is different, however, individual recoveries will always vary.
How long do I need a bandage?
You should use a bandage for about one week until your incision is closed and there is no fluid oozing from your wound. It should be changed daily to a new, dry sterile gauze. You may continue to wear a bandage to protect the incision from the irritation of clothing.
How long should I use elastic stockings (TEDS)?
These should be used for the first few weeks in order to help reduce swelling and improve circulation. You may wear them longer - especially if you find that your ankles swell without them.
Should I use ice or heat?
Ice should be used for the first several days, particularly if you have a lot of swelling or discomfort. Once the initial swelling has gone down, you may use ice and/or heat. The staff will help you with this while you are in the Hospital.
When can I shower (get incision wet)?
It is usually advised that you wait one week after surgery before showering, or until the wound is closed. If no drainage is present at the incision, your surgeon may agree that you can shower earlier. Initially, try to keep the incision dry with a plastic wrap. If it gets wet, pat it dry.
How long will I be on pain medicine?
You may need some form of pain medicine for a few weeks or until you see your physician in follow-up months. At first, you will take a strong medicine, such as a narcotic. Most people are able to stop narcotics within one month after surgery. You can then change to an over-the-counter pain medicine such as Tylenol. If you are taking Coumadin (Warfarin), you should talk with your primary care physician before making any changes in your pain medicine. Tylenol is ok if you are taking Coumadin.
Where will I go after my hospital stay?
Many people are able to go home after surgery. Others may go to an extended-care facility to achieve their goals. Many factors will be considered in this decision. Your insurance coverage will also be an important deciding factor. Your case manager will assist you in discharge planning.
Do I need therapy?
Yes! The therapist plays an important role in your recovery. You will see a physical therapist (PT) and occupational therapist (OT) soon after your operation and throughout your stay at the Hospital. If you go home after your hospitalization, you will likely have a therapist come to visit you two to three times a week. You could also be referred to see a therapist. If you go to an extended-care facility, you will receive therapy there. Your physical therapist will help you walk, negotiate stairs, regain motion and improve your strength. The occupational therapist will help you to resume activities of daily living including self-care, meal preparation and home management tasks. Your therapists will keep your surgeon informed of your progress.
Can I go up and down stairs?
Yes. Initially, you will lead with your non-operated leg when going up stairs and lead with your operated leg when going down stairs. You can use the phrase,“up with the good, down with bad” to help you remember. You will need to use crutches or a cane in one hand and the handrail with the other.
What activities can I do after surgery?
You may return to most activities when you feel up to it. You should avoid high-impact activities such as running, downhill skiing on expert slopes and vigorous racquet sports such as singles tennis or squash.
How long do I have to use my crutches or walker?
In most cases, you will need to use a walker or crutches for at least two to four weeks after surgery. You may be advised to use a cane after you have stopped using crutches. Most patients use an assistive device (walker or crutches) until they can walk without a limp.
When can I put more weight on my leg?
Your weight-bearing status will be explained to you before you leave the Hospital. Most patients are allowed to bear as much weight on the operative leg as is comfortable.
Should I tell my dentist or doctor that I have had a joint replacement?
Yes, for some procedures they will want to give you antibiotics to prevent infection of your new joint. Usually this is done for the first two years after surgery. Check with your surgeon before stopping this practice.
What exercises should I do?
You will be instructed by your physical therapist on appropriate exercises and given a list to follow. Be sure to talk with your surgeon and your therapists about when you can begin new activities.
Can I use weights?
Generally, we do not advise using weights for at least the first two months. However, each patient’s strength is different. Talk with your doctor about when would be the right time to start using weights.
Can I have sex?
For the most part, you can gradually resume sexual activity when you are comfortable.
When can I drive?
You should not drive until you can manage your pain without narcotics. You should also be able to move your legs freely without crutches before driving. If you had surgery on your right side, you should not drive for at least four to six weeks and then you may return to driving, as you feel comfortable. If you had surgery on your left side, you may return to driving, as you feel comfortable, as long as you have an automatic transmission.
When can I return to work?
This depends on the type of work you do. You may return to work after about one month if your work involves mostly sitting. If your work is more rigorous, you may require up to three months before you can return to full work. In some cases, more time may be needed.
When can I travel?
You may travel as soon as you feel comfortable, but avoid long distance travel for four to six weeks or until after seeing your surgeon. We advise you to get up to stretch or walk at least once an hour when taking long trips. This is important to help prevent blood clots.
Will my prosthesis set off the machines at airport security?
The increasing sensitivity of security detectors at airports and public buildings may cause your prosthesis to trigger an alert. We recommend you alert airport security that you have a prosthesis. In some situations, security guards may also move a wand up and down your leg to locate your joint replacement. They may also pad you down on the area that triggers the wand.
How long will I be on blood-thinning medication?
You will be on a blood thinner to help prevent blood clots. You may be on Coumadin, Lovenox or Aspirin. Your physician will determine the duration of your therapy. Your nurse will review your instructions for blood thinners at the time of discharge.
How long will my joint replacement last?
This varies from patient to patient. For each year after your surgery, you have a one percent chance of requiring additional surgery. For example, at 10 years after surgery, there is a 90 percent success rate.
How long should I take iron supplements?
Four weeks is usually enough time to build up blood after surgery.
What should I do about constipation after surgery?
It is very common to have constipation after surgery, especially when taking narcotic pain medicine. A simple over-the-counter stool softener (such as Colace) is the best way to prevent this problem. Increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet will also help. In rare instances, you may require a suppository or enema.
I feel depressed. Is this normal?
It is common to have feelings of depression or trouble sleeping after your surgery. This may be due to a variety of factors such as difficulty getting around, discomfort or increased dependency on others. These feelings will typically fade as you begin to return to your regular activities. If they continue, consult your primary care doctor.
When do I need to follow-up with my surgeon?
Follow-up appointments are usually made after surgery at four to six weeks, six months and yearly. Check with your surgeon.
I think my leg-lengths are different, what should I do?
After surgery, it is common to feel as though your leg lengths are different. At surgery, leg lengths are checked very carefully and every attempt is made to make them as equal as possible. The body and its muscles take time to adjust to a new joint. In some cases, a shoe lift may be prescribed for true difference in leg lengths. However, in most cases, no treatment is necessary.
Can I drink alcohol?
Alcohol use is not advised until you have stopped your narcotic pain medicine and are walking steadily.
What is a dislocation of the hip and how can I prevent it?
A dislocation of the hip occurs when the femoral head (ball) comes out of the acetabulum (socket).While this risk is very small, there are things you can do to prevent dislocation depending on the approach used for surgery. In general, you will want to avoid bending too much at the hip.
For the first six months:
- Avoid low chairs and furniture.
- Use a chair that has arms that will help you get up to a standing position.
- An elevated toilet seat may also be helpful.
- When sitting, do not cross your legs.
- If you must reach to the floor when seated, always reach between your legs, not to the outside.
Your surgeon may also give you more specific instructions:
- If the approach to surgery was from the front of your hip, you need to avoid outward rotation of your hip, that is, pointing your toe outward.You will also be advised to avoid excessive extension such as lying on your abdomen.
- If the approach was from the back, you need to avoid inward rotation of your hip, which is, pointing your toe inward. You will also be advised to avoid flexing (bending) at the hip more than 90 degrees.
Follow these instructions very carefully for the first six months. However, you will always need to be cautious about extreme positions of your hip. Be sure to ask your surgeon about the approach used for your surgery and the precautions that are specific to you.
Can I sleep on my side?
You may sleep on your operative side whenever you feel comfortable. You may sleep on your non-operative side at four weeks with a pillow between your knees.
When do my stitches come out?
If your stitches are absorbable, they do not need to be removed. The steri-strips can be kept in place until they fall off on their own. They will help keep the skin edges together. If they have not fallen off by three weeks, it is okay to peel them off. If your stitches are not absorbable, they’re removed after 10 to 14 days.
When can I place my hip in water (bathe, swimming pool, ocean, hot tub)?
You can place your hip in water to bathe or swim after stitches have been removed or about two weeks after surgery if there is no drainage from your incision.
What should I expect for my range of motion (ROM) at six weeks? At one year?
Each patient's range of motion varies and depends on individual factors. Your potential will be determined at the time of your surgery. In most cases, you will have enough motion to put on socks and tie your shoes. Clipping toenails may be difficult.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons
Find a Doctor
Find primary care physicians and specialists.
Free Community Flu Clinics
Newton-Wellesley Hospital is offering FREE Walk In Flu Shot Clinics near you.
Learn More >