Leaving the Hospital

Leaving the Hospital can sometimes be scary because your recovery is not complete. Some days you will feel that you have made great progress and other days will be harder.

Daily Guidelines

In general, the guidelines below will apply whether you are going directly home or to an extended-care facility. Your health care team will also provide you with additional instructions depending on the type of surgery. In the first week after leaving the Hospital, please follow these daily guidelines:

  • Take all your medications.
  • Maintain your hip precautions.
  • Continue your exercise routine on your own or with a physical therapist.
  • Take pain medicine as needed, especially before exercising.
  • Follow instructions for wound care. 
  • Drink plenty of liquids and eat healthy foods. 
  • Depending on your anticoagulation medicine, you may need blood tests.
  • You may be advised to take daily doses of iron to build up your blood because it is common to be somewhat anemic after joint replacement surgery.

Protecting Your Joint from Infection

After joint replacement surgery, it is important to protect your new joint from infection. An infection in one part of your body can travel in your blood and possibly spread to your new joint. The following section lists some infections that can cause problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should report them immediately to your primary care doctor.

  • Urinary tract infections. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include a frequent and urgent need to pass urine, pain in your lower back or lower pelvic region, cloudy, foul-smelling urine, chills or fever, lack of energy or appetite or sand-like material in your urine.
  • Skin infections. Injuries to your skin should receive prompt care. After an injury, wash the area with soap and water and apply a bandage. Serious cuts may require stitches. If an injury develops swelling, redness, drainage, enlargement, blistering, or if you develop a temperature, immediately call your primary care physician.
  • Dental infections. Good dental hygiene is important. You should see your dentist regularly for dental care even if you are not having any dental problems. When you see your dentist, be sure to inform him or her that you have had joint replacement surgery

If you have a dental or surgical procedure or a colonoscopy for which the surgeon or dentist feels it is possible that you may get an infection, you should take antibiotics before the procedure. The dentist or surgeon performing the procedure can prescribe an appropriate antibiotic.

Signs and Symptoms to Report

Any of the signals listed below can be of concern. If you experience any of the following when you go home, call your surgeon.

  • Temperature greater than 101°
  • Signs of infection (redness, swelling, draining wound, increasing pain)
  • Arm, leg or calf tenderness or pain
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat
  • Persistent nausea and vomiting
  • Bruising easily
  • Swelling in either leg that does not decrease when your leg is elevated for a few hours or overnight. It is common to have swelling of the lower leg that decreases each morning after you have been in bed all night.
  • If you have sudden pain, are unable to walk, have weakness in your leg or if you hear a popping sound, you may have dislocated your new joint. Your leg may turn inward. You will need to report to the nearest emergency department to have it relocated.

Getting Back to Your Usual Activities

During the first few weeks at home, you can adapt what you learned at the Hospital to your own setting. You should continue doing the exercises provided by your therapist. Staff from a home-care agency, such as a nurse or therapist, may visit as you make the transition to home. Home therapists may update your exercises and work further on home management activities.

Most people feel very tired when they leave the Hospital. For this reason, it is best to pace yourself as you return to your daily routine. If you feel tired, take a short morning or afternoon nap. As you recover, your energy will increase. You cannot do everything yourself. Don't be afraid to ask for help with daily tasks such as grocery shopping, laundry and house cleaning. Take care of yourself. Try to find ways to be good to yourself during this time.

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