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Posted on in Orthopedics

Before and After Joint Replacement: 9 Things to Know

“I’ve seen patients who are relieved to find a specialist to handle the total knee joint replacement,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Barry Clark of Pee Dee Orthopaedic Associates. “Yet, they often don’t realize that their job was only 1/3 done.  The weeks before and after surgery are also vitally important to a person’s ultimate recovery.” 

Here are some tips to help you plan:

PREPARING FOR JOINT SURGERY

  • Go to Class.  Some health systems now offer special classes for people expecting a total knee or hip joint replacement surgery. These classes offer many of the points listed here.  Ask about these classes when you meet with your orthopedic surgeon. Class or not, use this article as a check list.
  • Pre-hab. Knee and hip joint replacement patients know that they face some extended and, possibly painful, physical rehabilitation after the surgery.  A person also needs to tune up for the surgery.  Work on upper body exercises, because your arms may need to use crutches or a walker for a while. Being in good shape can also help speed your overall recovery.
  • Recovery Command Center. Plan on where you will spend most of your time when you get home 1-3 days after surgery. Have your TV remote control, telephone, medicine, water, books, radio, tissues, wastebasket, and any other items you may need in the course of a day to operate from your “command center.”
  • Driver/Helper.  Identify a spouse, relative or friend who can 1) drive you to the hospital, 2) drive you home and 3) spend a few days with you to help at home.  If you live alone and can’t find help, tell your doctor.  He may have you spend several weeks at an inpatient rehabilitation center.
  • Keep It Low. If your bedroom and bathroom is NOT on the first floor, prepare a temporary bedroom and toilet facilities. Place items you need within arms length or have a “reaching stick” to get them.
  • Stock Up.  Make sure you have kitchen supplies and prepared food, such as soup and casseroles.  If you cook, double the batches you make before surgery and freeze half for your at-home recovery.

RECOVERING FROM YOUR TOTAL JOINT REPLACEMENT

  • Get ‘Em Up! Your medical team will try to get you out of bed and standing or walking as soon as possible. It may be as early as the same day of surgery.    
  • Get ‘Em Moving! Your physical rehabilitation begins in the hospital. Then, continue at home for a short time. Next, you will participate in outpatient physical rehabilitation.  Hip replacement patients could be walking without a cane in a couple weeks and a mile a day in less than 2 months. It may take longer for knee replacement patients.
  • Plenty of Pockets. At home, you should have clothes that make it easy to dress, as well as slip-on shoes.  Also, have a robe, sweater, or kitchen or carpenter’s apron with lots of pockets.  This will allow you to carry things in the pockets so that you can use your hands for the crutches or walker in the early stages of your recovery. 

FINAL THOUGHT. Think of your total joint replacement as a 3-phase project.  Preparing for the surgery.  The actual surgery. Then, your recovery.  Kind of like a football game.  Practice. Play the game.  Then, recover from the bumps and bruises.  

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Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, myjointspace.com, American Association of Hip & Knee Surgeons

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