The number of people in the US who will undergo hip replacement surgery is skyrocketing. Total hip replacement has long been considered a major surgery, but is one of the best ways to improve the quality of life for people with severe hip pain due to osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis). Many older people suffer hip fractures from falls due to decreased bone density or osteoporosis. Surgery is necessary to repair a broken hip in most cases. As a consequence, many caregivers and family members will be in a position of caring for a loved one after hip surgery.
In the hospital
Most patients will stay overnight for 2-3 days following a total hip replacement. For hip fracture surgery, the amount of time spent in the hospital depends on the severity and location of the break and the overall health of the patient. When it is possible, a physical therapist will have patients on their feet and beginning to walk within a day or so of surgery. By the time the patient leaves the hospital, he or she should be able to walk a short distance with an assistive device like a walker.
If you are able to stay with your loved one after the surgery, the surgeon will permit a return to home that would not be possible for those who live alone. Without sufficient support in the first week or two, a patient having hip surgery would probably have to go to a rehabilitation center. There is no way to properly hand such tasks as navigating stairs or driving in the first days after hip surgery.
It is important to make sure the patient does not spend too much time immobile. Serious complications such as blood clots or pneumonia can occur if long periods are spent lying in bed. A physical therapist who treats the patient either in home or at a center will provide exercises that will strengthen the new joint and weight-bearing muscles. Encourage your loved one to perform the exercises and assist in any way you can.
It is absolutely fine for the patient to take the pain medication prescribed by the surgeon on the schedule indicated. If the patient seems to be doing well with pain and prefers not to take narcotic pain relievers, that is also perfectly fine. Relieving pain is important for the patient’s comfort and healing in the first days following surgery. If the patient is in overall good health, he or she will be able to drive once narcotic pain medication is stopped and there is sufficient strength and control in the legs.
Most people who need hip surgery are older, and those with hip fractures need to be very careful not to reinjure their hip with another fall. Physical and occupational therapy can help them learn how to reduce the risk of falling, and a family member or friend can help with that. If the patient has poor balance, encouraging the use of an assistive device like a cane to prevent further injury. If taking a ride in the car, give them a hand in and out.
If you or a loved one has a hip injury or osteoarthritis, an orthopedic surgeon can help decide whether hip surgery is the best treatment option. In the Baltimore area, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 for an appointment at one of our convenient locations today.