What About Recovery After Arthroplasty?
Hip and knee replacements are some of the most frequently performed and effective surgeries worldwide. However, there is a lot to consider when deciding to undergo surgery. The very prospect may even seem a little overwhelming. It is important that whomever you are consulting provides you with adequate information, can answer all your questions and put your mind at ease. Don’t allow fear or misinformation to prevent you from starting your journey to recovery! In this article, we take a closer look at life after Arthroplasty and what you can expect as soon as surgery is over.
DID YOU KNOW?
A survey¹ of orthopaedic surgeon members belonging to the South African Orthopaedic Association reported that each member in the country performed up to 43 hip arthroplasties each year. Statistics suggest that between 200 and 300 are now performed each month in South Africa².
Arthroplasty surgery is major surgery. While there are numerous benefits to look forward to after surgery, practically we would be remiss not to take a closer look at what you may need to face on your journey to recovery. Here are some tips to help you prepare both physically and emotionally:
- Expect some pain. The reality is your body will be going through a stressful physical event. There will be pain, and healing will take some time. It is important to note that pain varies from patient to patient – so we cannot predict the severity. You also don’t want any pain to get in the way of your participation in rehabilitation exercises. When in hospital, you will be provided with suitable pain management medication relative to your situation. Speak to your support team about any concerns you may have relating to the effects of pain medication or concerns about addiction, should this apply to you. We will work with you each step of the way.
- Make the most of your hospital stay. Mentally prepare to be in the hospital for three days and allow yourself to be taken care of; in certain circumstances, you may be ready for discharge sooner. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to help you prepare for your return home and how to adapt your lifestyle to optimise healing and prevent injury.
- Get moving and keep moving. A physiotherapist will initially help you and will provide you with the necessary information and exercises so that you can continue your mobilisation exercises and stretches at home, and gradually return to everyday activities. Your orthopaedic surgeon and physiotherapist may recommend that you exercise for 20 to 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day during your early recovery. Exercise is an essential part of your recovery as strong evidence supports that rehabilitation started on the day of surgery reduces the length of stay in the hospital.
As an added service to you, we at Cape Hip and Knee provide you with free home care and 24-hour emergency assistance from our team of experienced clinical nurses. The initial few weeks after surgery are vital for your recovery, and it is important that you know what you need to do to get mobile again and make the best recovery possible.
- Care for your wound. The wound is covered with a sterile dressing in theatre after the procedure. This dressing may be replaced in the ward before your discharge and will be waterproof to allow you to shower. For infection control, it is optimal that this dressing does not come loose, but just in case, we will provide you with a spare dressing. We will remove the dressing and inspect the wound at the routine follow-up visit two to three weeks after surgery.
- Getting around. You won’t be lying down all the time once you are home. Following surgery, you will need to use two crutches for at least three weeks. We encourage you to keep mobile and enjoy the outdoors as far as you are comfortable. However, remember to take it easy – you are still in recovery. Don’t over-stride and try to avoid uneven ground when walking. Also, avoid carrying anything heavy for a while. Lastly, don’t do anything that creates too much impact on your joints – for example, jumping up and down.
- Be patient. Chances are you will be able to return to everyday life before you even know it, but it won’t happen overnight. We encourage you to keep the long-term in mind. Be an active participant but don’t push yourself too far either and induce fatigue. Fatigue often leads to injury because you lose strength, could trip or fall and lose motivation. Instead, take it one step at a time. Exercise care with everything you do and don’t give up. And don’t forget, we are here to support you.
For additional information around your recovery at home, sleeping, driving, making use of the bathroom or travel by car or air, visit the Pathway to Recovery tab on our website. We also answer some frequently asked questions under our procedures tab, depending on the type of surgery you are having.
Don’t forget, our top-ranked orthopaedic surgeons can help you make an informed decision on joint preservation or joint replacement so that you can enjoy a more mobile and pain-free lifestyle. If you like the sound of that, contact us for a consultation today.
¹ van Zyl AA, van der Merwe JF, Steyn R. Epidemiological study of total hip replacement in South Africa. Orthopaedic Proceedings 2005;87-B:278-78.
² Future of hip replacements