By David Conrad, MD, ThedaCare Orthopedic Care
My mother is having her hip replaced. How long will the recovery take?
Hip replacement surgery is a major operation and it is good that your mother has you to help her through the recovery. Before your mother has surgery, she will be evaluated by a nurse care manager who will educate her about the process of having her hip replaced. As a part of that educational session, the care manager will identify all of your mother’s unique needs and create a detailed plan of care for her hospital stay and discharge from the hospital. After surgery, with the help of a physical therapist, the vast majority of patients are able to put their full weight on the replaced hip and use a walker or crutches to walk independently on level ground as well as walk up and down stairs. As a result, most patients are able to be safely discharged from the hospital to their home. The plan of care developed before surgery will take into account the physical layout of her home, sleeping arrangements, toileting, showering, food preparation and transportation. Some modifications to her home may be necessary in anticipation for her return home following surgery. If your mother lives alone, she will need to make plans for someone to stay with her for those first few days after leaving the hospital. She will likely need family assistance with food preparation and transportation for office visits.
A physical therapist will come to your mother’s home twice a week for the first two weeks after surgery. The physical therapist will assure that your mother can walk safely in her home, continue to educate her about movement precautions, and help her perform the exercises taught to her in the hospital. Your mother will be able to move independently at home and she will not need your help for short distance walking. Most patients will use a walker or crutches for a week to two weeks following surgery. The physical therapist will evaluate her need for a walking aid each time she visits the home. As her pain decreases, she will be able to move with greater ease and walk longer distances. Eventually, she will have physical therapy at an outpatient center to further increase the strength surrounding the hip.
Most patients have a noticeable change in their hip related symptoms very shortly following surgery. Nevertheless, most individuals will need pain medications to control their pain for the first 2 to 4 weeks after surgery. Your surgical team will assess your mother’s needs for continued pain medication at her first follow up appointment 2 weeks following surgery. Many individuals will have excellent pain control as soon as 4 to 6 weeks following surgery.
It is common for patients to be tired following a total hip replacement, which is due in part to anesthesia, blood loss, pain, and the necessity of prescription pain medications. This fatigue will slowly resolve over the course of the first 6 weeks following surgery.
Most individuals will be able to resume their normal activities within 6 weeks of surgery. Normally, around this time patients will resume driving as long as they are not taking any prescription pain medications. Within 12 weeks following surgery, many patients will resume their recreational activities, such as talking long walk, cycling, or playing golf. It may take some patients up to 6 months to completely recover following a hip replacement.