The number of hip replacements performed in the United States has increased substantially over the years, and it is becoming easier on the patients themselves. "Recovery is dramatically easier for patients and the durability of hip replacements has improved," says Dr. Mark Pagnano, chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
While this news is certainly comforting for those about to undergo surgery, you undoubtedly still have a lot of questions. Here are five questions to be sure to ask your physician (and don’t forget to write out a list of your own so that no question goes unanswered).
5 Questions to Ask Before Surgery
1. How can I prepare for surgery?
Your physician may have some suggestions that could help speed up the recovery time. For example, if you’re overweight, losing a few pounds may help make it easier to get around. Boosting your upper body strength can also improve mobility on crutches or with a walker (you’ll also want to take them for a “test drive” prior to surgery in order to get comfortable with them). You may also consider meeting with a physical therapist to learn any suggested exercises before your operation.
Finally, you may want to consider rearranging your home so it’s prepared for your return home. This could involve moving a bed, removing tripping hazards, and setting up a “base camp” where you’ll spend most of your time; here, you’ll want to have all remote controls, laptop and phone chargers, books, etc.
2. What complications may occur with this kind of surgery?
While hip replacement surgery is now fairly common, as with all surgeries there is always some risk of complications. Some to ask your doctor about include:
Blood clots. Following surgery, clots can form in your leg veins. The danger is in the clot breaking off and traveling to your heart, lungs or brain. A blood-thinning medication may be recommended.
Change in leg length. Occasionally, a new hip can make one leg longer or shorter than the other due to contracture of the muscles surrounding the hip. Ask your physician or physical therapist about exercises that can strengthen and stretch those muscles.
Fracture. Healthy portions of your hip joint may fracture during surgery; while these can be small and heal on their own, larger fractures may need correction with wires or pins.
Infection. Infections can occur at the site of your incision and in rare cases the incision can begin to open (known as wound dehiscence). Most infections are treated with antibiotics, but it’s best to ask your physician about proper wound care to avoid a major infection that could lead to the need for additional surgery or removal and replacement of your prosthesis.
Loosening. This is much less common with today’s implants, but over time your new joint may loosen from your bone, causing pain and possible requiring additional surgery.
3. What is the expected recovery time?
Recovery time will vary from patient to patient, often based on age and overall health; your physician should be able to give you an expected recovery time based on those factors. It’s best to view recovery as a two-step process: short-term recovery and long-term recovery.
Short-term recovery involves the ability to get out of the hospital bed and be discharged from the hospital. Most hip replacement surgery patients are given a walker on day 2, and released on day 3. Short-term recovery also means getting off major pain killers and having a complete night's sleep without the aid of pills. Once a patient can move around without pain and without the assistance of a walker or crutches, they move into long-term recovery. Long-term recovery involves the complete healing of surgical wounds and internal soft tissues; this can take up to 6 months.
4. What are lifting limits?
While you may think hip surgery is all about walking and exercise limits, lifting is also a factor. Lifting can put strain on the wound, and is one of the most common causes of wound dehiscence.
5. What are some things to avoid following hip surgery?
Your physician will talk with you about exercising and other activities, but there are a few rules of thumb to be aware of:
Avoid hip flexion past 90 degrees. In other words, don’t bend your hip up too far or lift your knee too high. For example, bending your knee and hip up to put on a sock may break this rule and can lead to hip dislocation.
Avoid crossing your operated leg over your non-operative leg. This is known as adduction. While it’s easier to avoid when awake, you may want to get a special wedge, known as an abduction pillow, to help keep your legs separated when sleeping.
Avoid internal rotation of the hip. Following surgery, you should not rotate your hip inwards; this means walking with your toes straight ahead or slightly rotated outwards when sitting, standing, or lying. Patients with a tendency to walk pigeon-toed risk dislocation if they don’t adjust their walking.
One more question you may want to ask your physician: How can BandGrip be used to close your hip replacement wound more effectively. Resembling a typical adhesive bandage, BandGrip’s patented micro-anchors grip the skin tightly and hold wound edges together to facilitate a secure closure offering many advantages:
Faster and easier application versus sutures and staples
Eliminates the risk of needlestick injuries
Results in less scarring than sutures or staples
Supports better mobility due to its smooth, water-resistant surface
Does not require a return visit for removal
You and your physician can learn more about BandGrip here.