The complication rate following hip replacement surgery is low. Serious complications, such as joint infection, occur in less than 2 percent of patients. Major medical complications, such as heart attack or stroke, occur even less frequently. However, chronic illnesses may increase the potential for complications. Although uncommon, when these complications occur they can prolong or limit your full recovery.
Blood clots in the leg veins or pelvis are the most common complication of hip replacement surgery. Your orthopaedic surgeon may prescribe one or more measures to prevent blood clots from forming in your leg veins, such as special support hose, inflatable leg coverings, and blood thinners.
Your Recovery at Home :
The success of your surgery will depend in large measure on how well you follow your orthopaedic surgeon's instructions regarding home care during the first few weeks after surgery.
Wound Care :
You will have stitches or staples running along your wound or a suture beneath your skin. The stitches or staples will be removed about two weeks after surgery.
Avoid getting the wound wet until it has thoroughly sealed and dried. A bandage may be placed over the wound to prevent irritation from clothing or support stockings.
Some loss of appetite is common for several weeks after surgery. A balanced diet, often with an iron supplement, is important to promote proper tissue healing and restore muscle strength. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Exercise is a critical component of home care, particularly during the first few weeks after surgery. You should be able to resume most normal light activities of daily living within three to six weeks following surgery. Some discomfort with activity, and at night, is common for several weeks.
Your activity program should include :
- A graduated walking program initially in your home and later outside.
- Walking program to slowly increase your mobility and endurance.
- Resuming other normal household activities.
- Resuming sitting, standing, walking up and down stairs.
- Specific exercises several times a day to restore movement.
- Specific exercises several times a day to strengthen your leg muscles.
- You may wish to have a physiotherapist to help you at home.
Avoiding Problems After Surgery
Blood Clot Prevention:
Follow your orthopaedic surgeon's instructions carefully to minimize the potential risk of blood clots in your leg veins, which can occur during first several weeks of your recovery.
Warning signs of possible blood clots include: pain in your calf and leg unrelated to your incision, tenderness or redness of your calf, swelling of your thigh, calf, ankle or foot. Warning signs that a blood clot has traveled to your lung include shortness of breath, chest pain, particularly with breathing. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of these signs.
Preventing Infection :
The most common causes of late infection following hip replacement surgery are from bacteria that enter the bloodstream during dental procedures, urinary tract infections, or skin infections. These bacteria can lodge around your prosthesis.
Following your surgery, you should take antibiotics prior to dental work, including dental cleanings, or any surgical procedure that could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
Warning signs of a possible hip replacement infection are:
Persistent fever (higher than 100 degrees orally), shaking chills, increasing redness, tenderness, or swelling of the hip wound, drainage from the hip wound, increasing hip pain with both activity and rest. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of these signs.
Avoiding Falls :
A fall during the first few weeks after surgery can damage your new hip and may result in a need for more surgery. Stairs are a particular hazard until your hip is strong and mobile. You should use a cane, crutches, a walker, or handrails, or have someone help you until you improve your balance, flexibility and strength.
Your surgeon and physiotherapist will help you decide what assistive aides will be required following surgery, and when those aides can safely be discontinued.