A total joint replacement can be very inconvenient no matter how much it’s needed. It’s painful. Recovery takes a long time. There are a lot of things you can’t do while you’re waiting for it to heal. Here are a few tips for planning for a convenient, comfortable and successful hip replacement recovery.
How to Shorten Your Recovery Time
Your choice of surgeon matters
Not all hip replacement surgeries are done in the same way. A surgical “approach” refers to where the incision is made for a surgery, or the direction from which the surgeon approaches the surgical site. There are three primary approaches to hip replacement surgery:
the posterior (back) approach
the lateral (side) approach
the direct anterior (front) approach.
In the direct anterior approach, surgery is performed with the patient lying on his back while the surgeon makes an incision down the front of the thigh. Not all surgeons use the direct anterior approach for a hip replacement, however, this approach has several major advantages.
It minimizes the risk of a future hip dislocation.
It is associated with a faster recovery.
The muscle is not detached or cut through but separated.
The incision is smaller.
There is less tissue damage.
There is less pain.
Having less pain isn’t simply more comfortable. It also allows makes rehabilitation go faster. In addition, it helps you stop using pain medication sooner. With the direct anterior approach patients can be off of pain medication within two weeks. This is especially convenient because the sooner you are off of pain medication, the sooner you are able to drive.
When choosing a surgeon, ask about what approach the surgeon uses. Choosing a surgeon who performs the direct anterior approach can help you shorten your recovery time and regain your independence sooner.
Schedule surgery BEFORE you’re trapped in a sedentary lifestyle
One of the biggest reasons people get a hip replacement is because they are no longer able to do the things they love. Believe it or not, what someone loves to do can affect their recovery time, and thus their convenience, after hip replacement surgery.
Some people love being active, and can’t stand sitting around. They may opt to get a hip replacement sooner, before their overall health has been affected by years of inactivity. They may also get surgery before their hip has fully deteriorated. Once they have surgery, their eagerness to get up and move motivates them to work harder during rehabilitation.
Other people are content to lead a sedentary lifestyle. They may delay a hip replacement until the hip is so damaged that the even basic activities are a challenge. Years of physical inactivity can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc. These conditions increase the risk of complications. They may also affect a patient’s ability or to fully participate in rehabilitation, so that recovery takes longer.
Save Recovery Time With These Tips
If you want your hip replacement recovery to pass quickly:
Pick a surgeon who uses the direct anterior approach
Stay as active as possible prior to surgery
Keep your weight down before surgery
Get surgery sooner rather than later
Work hard at rehabilitation
Save Money on Your Hip Replacement
Know Your Costs
Hip replacement surgery is expensive for several reasons:
You receive a lot of different healthcare services before, during and after surgery, including imaging, surgical services, anesthesia and rehabilitation.
The artificial joint itself is pricey.
There is a lot of variation in what insurance does and doesn’t cover.
For all of these reasons and more, it’s very important to have a clear idea of what costs to expect.
Fortunately, price transparency in healthcare has recently been reinforced with legislation. Talk to your healthcare provider’s billing office when planning for your surgery. Know what you will have to pay and when you will have to pay it.
Don’t hesitate to compare costs among different facilities. There can be a lot of variation in prices, particularly in different parts of the country. Also, not everything has to be done at one facility. It’s possible to have surgery at a hospital further from home and rehabilitation at a more convenient location.
Remember that cost isn’t everything. It pays to look for skill and experience. Use websites such as Find a Doctor | Find a Physician – Healthgrades to look up information on your doctor’s education, board certification, years in practice and patient reviews and ratings. Look up the ratings of your facility as well. Be especially careful to check out their infection rate.
The better the surgeon and the higher the standards of your facility, the better the value you receive for your money.
Follow these instructions, and if everything goes as planned, you will know what to expect when the bills come in.
Follow the Doctor’s Instructions and Avoid Complications
Of course, not everything always goes according to plan. When this happens after a joint replacement surgery, the complications can be quite serious. To avoid this, be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.
Pay particular attention to all wound care instructions. An infection can be the single most expensive, painful and difficult complication of a hip replacement surgery.
How to Maintain Your Independence
Plan Your Transportation
While a hip replacement increases your mobility in the long run, it decreases it in the short run. The best way to maintain your independence is to know what to expect and plan how to work around it.
For the first couple of weeks after surgery, you will have trouble getting into and out of a car. If possible, try to arrange for a roomy and comfortable vehicle during this time. At the very least, plan to move your seat all the way back before getting into a car. Keep a pillow in the car to sit on. If you raise yourself up, you will have more leg room.
It can take 2 weeks or more to return to driving. Before your surgery, make a list of all of the places you usually drive and why you drive there. Imagine not being able to go to any of these places until you can drive again. Figure out how you are going to manage.
Stock up on groceries and other necessary supplies.
Fill the pantry and freezer with easily prepared foods.
Get checks, envelopes and stamps for paying bills that can’t be paid online.
Figure out when your healthcare appointments will be and schedule drivers.
Prepare for Limited Mobility At Home
Preparing your house for your recovery can take a lot of work, but this helps prevent inconvenience in the long run. The more arrangements you make yourself, the more you can set things up the way you like them. If you have to depend on someone else’s choices later, you may be much less comfortable.
Before surgery, take a look at your house. Imagine:
Spending most of your day sitting in one place
Having to use a walker
Being unable to go up and down stairs for a while (Don’t worry. You will learn how to use the stairs in rehabilitation.)
Being especially vulnerable to falls
Arrange your house for maximum convenience during your recovery.
Make sure you have a first floor bed.
Clear all necessary pathways so they are wide enough for a walker.
Fix up a first floor sitting area close to a bathroom that is well stocked with toilet paper.
Get a comfortable recliner to sit in.
Position the recliner in front of a tv and put the remote within easy reach. Put new batteries in the remote.
Place a small table within easy reach for writing. (If possible get a rolling table on a stand that raises and lowers like a hospital bed table.) Stock the table with paper, pens and some entertaining books.
Place a phone charger nearby.
If possible, place a small refrigerator nearby for cold drinks and snacks.
Place a container of sanitizing wipes nearby for hand washing.
Remove trip hazards throughout the house.
Lastly, ask your healthcare provider for a list of suggested medical equipment or accommodations such as shower or toilet bars. Get them installed if needed.
Hip replacement surgery is never easy. It takes a lot of time. It’s expensive. Recovery creates transportation and mobility issues that can interfere with your independence. However, with thoughtful planning and preparation, you can keep the inconvenience to manageable levels. Hip replacement surgery can be life changing. The process isn’t easy, but with a successful recovery behind you, the results will be well worth it.