After Your Hip Replacement: What You Need to Know
During hip replacement surgery, the surgeon operates on the muscle and tissue supporting your hip joint. This muscle and tissue needs time to strengthen and heal in order to keep the replacement hip in place. After your hip replacement surgery, you should patiently submit yourself to the healing process to ensure your new hip settles in properly. It’s also important to be aware of complications that may arise after surgery. This article provides an overview of what you need to know after your hip replacement surgery.
The Healing Process
Depending on the extent of the surgery, most patients fully recover after three to six months. Visiting a physical therapist once you’re released from the hospital will help you learn how to sit up, walk, exercise, and move with your new implant. Following these precautions after your hip replacement surgery will allow your implant to fully heal without a dislocation:
- Do not cross your legs or ankles.
- Use helpful devices to reach objects without bending or squatting.
- Avoid driving until authorized by your doctor.
- Don’t sleep on the side of your new hip or on your stomach.
- Take small steps and use crutches or walkers.
- When sitting, use pillows to keep your hips at a higher level than your knees.
Once your doctor determines your replacement hip is healed, you should increase your activity level. Maintaining an active lifestyle after your hip replacement will help improve your strength, flexibility, endurance, and long-term success. Be sure to stick to low-impact activities like walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike, or golfing.
Common Complications After Hip Replacement Surgery
Hip dislocation is the most common problem after hip replacement surgery. That’s because hip implants are sized smaller than natural joints, causing them to fall out of the socket at a higher rate. To minimize the risk of dislocation, you should avoid crossing your legs or moving your body in ways that pull on your hip joint.
Another common complication after hip implant surgery is blood clots. Patients will notice redness, swelling, or tenderness in the area of the blood clot. Blood clots most commonly affect older adults, people who are severely overweight, cancer patients, and smokers.
Your body may also have an adverse reaction to the artificial implant after your surgery. This most commonly occurs with metal-on-metal replacement hips. Friction between the metal components of these models can release metallic particles into the body, causing a condition known as metallosis. Symptoms of metallosis include inflammation, swelling around the implant, and even blood poisoning in severe cases. The inflammation is caused by special cells attacking parts of the bone, causing the joint to become loose.
As a result, many metal-on-metal hip implants have been recalled due to the high failure rates and the risks associated with the broken implant debris. If you discover a recall for your implant or are injured as a result of a defective implant, remedies may be available to you under products liability law. Contact an attorney specializing in products liability law in your area to discuss your legal options.
Other less common problems after your hip replacement include surgical wounds, joint infection, nerve injury, and heterotopic ossification – a condition caused by bone deposits in joint tissues that limits your hip’s range of motion. However, these rare complications generally flare up in people who have other medical conditions. For example, people who have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic liver disease, or are taking corticosteroids are more prone to infections after surgery than healthier individuals.
After your hip replacement surgery, it’s vital to follow your physical therapist’s hip conditioning plan. You can also use hot and cold compresses or take a prescribed pain medication. If you think you dislocated your hip, do not attempt to get up. Instead, call your doctor immediately, or have someone call if you’re away from the phone.
While some pain and soreness after your hip replacement surgery is expected, if the discomfort persists and is centralized in your hip area, it may be a sign of more serious complications. In particularly serious situations, like those involving metallosis or hip failure, you may need to undergo hip revision surgery. During the surgery, the problematic artificial hip is removed and replaced with a new, safer model.