– Joint Replacement Surgery – What to Expect Before and After


Joint replacement is becoming an increasingly common procedure performed each year in the United States.  Patients are now enjoying longer and more active lifestyles than ever before.  In 2006 alone, more than one million hip and knee replacements surgeries took place in the United States compared to roughly 100,000 such procedures in 1976.  This trend is likely to continue upward.

Once a patient and their doctor have exhausted non-surgical treatment options for a diseased joint, surgical intervention is considered.  Patients should be counseled regarding the types of joint replacement surgery, the associated risks, and expected outcomes of their proposed treatment.  Consultation with a primary care physician or internal medicine doctor is often required in order to obtain medical clearance prior to surgery.  This helps to identify unrecognized health issues that may need to be addressed prior to surgery or ways to optimize one’s medical condition so that surgery can be performed safely.  This routinely requires a chest radiograph (X-ray), EKG, and simple blood tests to evaluate liver and kidney function.  Additional tests may be required to evaluate heart or lung function depending on a patient’s medical history.  Certain medicines such as blood thinners, aspirin, or arthritis medicines should be stopped when possible prior to surgery to avoid excessive bleeding.

Many hospitals offer pre-operative tutorials for patients scheduled to undergo joint replacement surgery or who may be considering this option.  Additionally, patients may elect to visit different rehab centers prior to surgery to select one best suited to their needs.  Many implant companies offer online information or pamphlets that can provide further information.  Ask your doctor about local resources available to you as you prepare for surgery.


Once surgery has been performed, most patients will spend a short time in the hospital or facility where the surgery was performed.  Some centers offer “outpatient” surgery which allows the patient to return home the day of surgery.  For the majority of patients while in the hospital, post-operative care is aimed at controlling pain, monitoring any pre-existing medical conditions, managing any new medical issues that arise, and beginning physical therapy.  The length of hospital stay and pace of therapy will depend on the individual patient and specifics of their surgery.  Generally, patients are allowed to discharge from the hospital 2-4 days after surgery and then will continue their recovery at home or at a dedicated inpatient rehab center for a short period of time.

During the post-operative period, your physician may recommend therapies or medications to lower the risk of developing blood clots and infection.  Certain activities such as strenuous work, driving, or flying may be prohibited for a short period of time.  Generally, patients can return to most normal routine activities in 3-4 weeks following surgery, but may require physical therapy for up to 12 weeks to ensure full recovery.  It is important to speak with your surgeon before surgery about any anticipated restrictions (temporary or permanent) and expected course of recovery so that appropriate expectations can be made.  Appropriate follow up with your surgeon may include periodic office visits for X-rays and to monitor progress in therapy.

The staff and physicians at Specialty Orthopedic Surgery are dedicated to ensuring a comprehensive and safe approach to your joint health.  We have extensive experience in all facets of joint replacement surgery utilizing the latest in innovative technologies and techniques to provide our patients with care that keeps them moving.

Written by Dr. Judd Cummings

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