What is the post-operative (after surgery) management for a joint replacement surgery?

Hip replacement post-operative management

Most patients can stand at their bedside on the first day after surgery and can even begin exercising. By the second day after surgery, most patients begin walking with a walker or with crutches, and can apply 50 to 75% of their weight on the affected leg.

Most patients leave the hospital by the first or second day after surgery. Older individuals and patients who have major health problems are usually referred to a rehabilitation facility for 7 to 10 days for more therapy.

All patients will use either crutches or a walker for about 4 weeks after surgery. They are then allowed to place full weight on the affected leg while using a cane for balance. The cane also prevents the muscles from becoming tired.

Generally, by 6 to 12 weeks after surgery, the person can stop using the cane or walker (if the doctor or therapist agrees) and the hip can support the person's full weight. Patients who have weaker muscles may need to use the cane or walker for a longer period.

Once you have completed therapy after the total hip replacement, you can take part in most activities, such as walking, bike riding, skiing, and golf. Activities in which there is repeated or frequent impact on the joint (such as tennis and racquetball) should be avoided or practiced only occasionally.

Knee replacement post-operative management

Most patients who have total knee surgery have a dramatic improvement within three months of the surgery. The pain caused by the damaged knee is relieved when a new gliding surface is built.

Patients who have knee replacement surgery are usually standing and moving the joint the day after surgery. After about 6 weeks, most patients are walking comfortably with very little support; however, it may take 6 months to a year before the most benefit is achieved. After muscle strength returns, patients who have knee replacement surgery can enjoy most activities (except running and jumping).

Approximately 85% of knee implants will last 20 years. Improvements in surgical techniques, prosthetic designs, bearing surfaces, and fixation methods may allow these implants to last even longer.

Shoulder replacement post-operative management

A successful result of your total shoulder joint replacement strongly depends on your performing the exercises that were prescribed for you. Through this structured exercise program, your muscles will be regularly and increasingly stretched and strengthened over one year's time. The goal is to get your shoulder replacement working as well as it can.

In certain situations, patients may need extensive formal physical therapy after being discharged from the hospital. This can be done during outpatient therapy at home. Most patients, however, do not need any formal outpatient therapy.

Your rehabilitation will be continuing and always moving forward. It may take 6 months to 1 year to reach the most benefit. It is important to realize that progress is sometimes slow and not always steady. You must continue your therapy program without getting discouraged. Your doctor will check your progress during visits, which will be every 6 weeks for the first 4 to 5 months, and then less frequently for 1 year.

With improvements in materials, prosthetic designs, and surgical techniques, more than 95% of total joint replacement procedures should last 15 to 20 years or more. Follow-up after recovery from surgery should include X-rays after the first, third, fifth, and seventh years. After that, X-rays should be taken every 2 years to make sure that there is no wear on the replaced joint.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/29/2016.


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