Frequently Asked Questions
How long does the operation take?
We reserve approximately two to two and a half hours for your operation. Some of this time is used by the operating room staff to prepare for the procedure.
Will I be asleep during the operation?
You may have a general anesthetic, which most people call “being put to sleep.” Some people may have a spinal or epidural anesthetic, which numbs only the legs. Either way, you will be asleep during the operation. The choice is between you and the anesthesiologist.
Will the operation be painful?
You will have discomfort following the operation, but we will keep you comfortable with appropriate medication. Generally, most people are able to stop very strong medication within one day. Most people control their own medicine with a special pump that delivers the drug directly into an IV or epidural catheter.
Who will be performing the operation?
Your orthopedic surgeon will perform the operation. Assistants will help.
When will my pain go away?
You can expect to have some pain for several weeks. Everyone is different, so the amount of pain varies from person to person. However, the pain you experience will be different from the deep, aching pain you may have experienced prior to the operation. Your new prosthesis should eventually relieve the pain and stiffness you had prior, while movement at the joint should improve.
How long will I have to use my walker or crutches?
This is different for each individual. You can expect to be getting up and walking one to two days after your operation. Your physical therapist will work with you until you are safely walking with either crutches or a walker. You can expect to be using a walker between four and eight weeks. Your surgeon will periodically X-ray your new joint to check the healing process and will tell you when you no longer need support. If your progress is slow, you may need the walker for a longer period of time. As you progress, your doctor or therapist may suggest the use of a cane. Eventually, you may not need any assistive device, depending on your general health prior to your operation.
Is there anything I can do that will damage my new joint?
Your new joint will be very strong and secure. However, there are some precautions that MUST be followed to ensure that your joint stays in good condition. Your doctor, nurses, and therapist will provide you with information throughout the recovery process.
How long will my new joint last and can a second replacement be done?
Most joints last 15 to 20 years or longer, however, there is no guarantee. A second replacement may be necessary.
Why do they fail?
The most common reason for failure is loosening of the artificial surface from the bone. Wearing down of the cup liner may also result in the need for a new liner.
What are the major risks?
Most operations go very well without any complications. Infection and blood clots are two serious complications that concern us the most. To avoid these complications, we use antibiotics and blood thinners. We also take special precautions in the operating room to reduce risk of infections. The chances of this happening in your lifetime are 1 percent or less.
Will I need blood?
You may need blood after your operation, although newer techniques are making this less common.
How long will I be incapacitated?
You will probably stay in bed the day of your operation. The next morning you will get up, sit in a recliner and should be walking with a walker later that day or early the next.
How long will I be in the hospital?
This will depend on your individual case and your general health before your operation, but the average stay is three to four days. Before going home, you should be able, or nearly able, to do the following:
• Get in and out of a chair by yourself.
• Walk independently with an assistive device.
• Show an understanding of your home exercise program.
• Recall all of the precautions for your new joint.
Where will I go after I leave the hospital?
Many people are able to go home directly from the hospital. Some may transfer to a rehabilitation center and stay for five to 10 days or longer as needed. Your case manager will make the necessary arrangements.
Will I need help at home?
Yes. The first several days or weeks, depending on your progress, you will need someone to assist you with meal preparation, etc. If you go directly home from the hospital, your home care coordinator will arrange for a nurse, physical therapist, and occupational therapist to come to your house as needed. You may need to ask family or friends to help, if possible. Making preparations ahead of time can minimize the amount of help you will need. Having the laundry done, house cleaned, yard work completed, clean linens put on the bed, and single portion meals prepared will reduce your need for extra help.
What if I live alone?
Two options are usually available for those who live alone. You may either transfer to rehabilitation center or you may go directly home with a home health nurse and a home physical therapist to assist you.
Will I need any equipment?
Yes. A tub bench and grab bars in the tub or shower will be helpful. Your occupational therapist may also recommend a “reacher,” a sock aid, a long-handled shoehorn, elastic shoelaces, a long-handled sponge or back brush. Your case manager and physical therapist can provide you with more information on these items.
Will I need physical therapy when I go home?
Yes. We will arrange your follow-up visits with physical therapy. You may go to an outpatient facility two to three times a week to assist in your rehabilitation. The length of time required for this type of therapy varies with each person.
How long until I can drive and get back to normal?
You may not drive until cleared by your doctor, which is usually six weeks. Getting back to normal will depend somewhat on your progress. Consult with your doctor or physical therapist for advice on your activity.
When will I be able to go back to work?
We recommend that most people take at least two months off from work, unless their jobs are quite sedentary and they can return to work with crutches.
When can I have sexual intercourse?
The time to resume sexual intercourse is usually between three to six weeks.
How often will I need to be seen by my doctor following the surgery?
Your first post-operative office visit will be at about one to two weeks after you go home. The frequency of follow-up visits will depend on your progress. Many people see their doctor at six weeks, 12 weeks, and then yearly or as directed.
Do you recommend any restrictions following this operation?
Yes. High-impact activities, such as running, singles tennis and basketball are not recommended. Injury-prone sports, such as downhill skiing are also dangerous for a joint replacement.
What physical or recreational activities may I participate in after my recovery?
You are encouraged to participate in low-impact activities such as walking, dancing, golfing, hiking, swimming, bowling and gardening.
Will I notice anything different about my joint?
Yes. You may have a small area of numbness to the outside of the scar, which may last a year or more and is not serious. Some people notice some clicking when they move their new joint. This is the result of the artificial surfaces coming together and it is not serious.