Post-Hip Surgery Recovery and Care
Having a hip replacement is no small surgical procedure. This major operation can take a bit to fully bounce back from. Proper recovery and aftercare are vital to minimize complications such as dislocation of the new joint or infection. Whatever your doctors, physical therapist, and other health care professionals you are working with telling you, it is important to heed their instructions. Here are some important things to consider after your hip surgery.
The staples used to close the surgical incision will be removed about two weeks after the operation. It is important to protect this area. Do not shower for 48 hours after their removal. Avoid using any creams, lotions, or ointments, unless directed by your doctor. Consider covering the area with a bandage to protect it, but do not let it get too wet. It is important to keep the area dry. If you experience a burning sensation, which is common, you can relieve this by applying an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes.
If you smoke, know that this will delay the healing of your wound. Talk to your doctor about taking supplements of nutrients important in wound healing, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc. Eating a diet rich in these nutrients may also help accelerate the healing process. Examples of good foods include berries, citrus fruits, potatoes, almonds, mustard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, kale, collard greens, nuts, olive oil, peppers, broccoli, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, kiwi and papaya.
Reducing Risk of Dislocation
Dislocation of the new joint is a potential complication of hip replacement surgery and the risk increases as you begin moving around more and returning to your daily activities. To minimize this occurrence, you need to be careful about how you are moving your body during the recovery period.
When sitting in bed, do not lead forward with your legs straight. Do not sit low in chairs; to reduce pressure on your hips, use the armrests when rising to a standing position. Bend your knees when lifting things. When your legs are crossed, do not bend forward. Avoid walking too fast. Always keep your knees apart. When you begin to engage in exercise again, stick to low-impact activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, and golf. It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start any physical activity.
To reduce the risk of dislocation, your therapist will provide assistive devices to help you get dressed, such as shoe horns and sock donners; use them for as long as she recommends.
Preventing Blood Clots and Swelling
Any type of surgery increases the risk of blood clots, especially surgeries that operate on the bones. Your doctor may suggest wearing compression stockings to encourage normal blood flow. You may also be prescribed blood-thinning medications—they do not actually thin the blood but rather, prevent clots from forming. The doses are highly individualized and it is important to take them exactly as instructed and follow any instructions given regarding the medicine, such as limiting certain foods that can counteract the effects. You may experience swelling in the leg; it typically worsens as the day goes on. You can reduce it by lying down or elevating your legs for 30 to 60 minutes during the day.