What is Rehabilitation Like After Hip Replacement Surgery?

Hip replacement is one of the most common surgeries performed in Australia, but common does not mean minor. Like all major surgeries, there is a rehabilitation period immediately after hip replacement. This rehabilitation period is designed to ensure that the surgery is as successful as possible at addressing the condition, helping you regain mobility quickly and effectively.

In this blog, we’ll go through a few key points to be aware of during the rehabilitation period, helping you better understand your needs in this time.

Note that this is general advice, and your situation may change depending on the hip replacement technique chosen by your surgeon, the presence of any complications or comorbidities and other factors including lifestyle and age.

Dr Slattery utilises an ERAS – Early Recovery After Surgery Protocol, which is an internationally validated method of speeding up recovery after hip and knee surgery.  This involves specialised techniques in anaesthesia, physiotherapy and rehabilitation to allow early mobilisation and rapid recovery.

Early days

Advances in hip replacement technology and technique mean that for many patients, hospital stays have been shortened from a week to commonly two or three days. Some patients may be required to stay as many as five depending on the specifics of the procedure.

Depending on the technique used by your doctor as well as other factors, you will most likely be able to get out of bed, stand and walk with the aid of crutches on the first day. Soon after your operation and while still in the hospital, you’ll begin a course of physical therapy, building strength around the new joint so that you can develop mobility with your new hip. Rehabilitation at this stage frequently consists of simple exercises such as ankle pumps, leg lifts, and heel slides, but will soon progress to more strenuous exercises designed to strengthen the muscles around the hip.

What can’t I do after a hip replacement surgery?

Hip replacement surgery is major surgery, and as such during the rehabilitation period there will be things you are advised not to do – or not to do without assistance. Common activities affected by hip replacement surgery include walking, navigating stairs, driving, work, intimacy and exercise, among others. Your ability to resume these activities is affected by a range of factors, including the technique used by your surgeon, the presence of any complications, your level of preparation prior to surgery, your body weight and level of fitness.

As general guidance, patients frequently move to walking with crutches after about two to four weeks, with unassisted walking following after four to six weeks. Note that some patients are advised not to carry their full weight on the affected leg in the weeks after surgery, necessitating a longer period of time on crutches before transitioning to walking unassisted. Additionally, patients will most likely need assistance navigating stairs for the first month after surgery, and your ability to drive will be affected not only by your recovery but by how long you are prescribed pain medication for.

Overall, following the instructions of your physical therapist and doing the exercises prescribed can be beneficial to your recovery, allowing you to return to normal activities sooner.

What if this is my second hip replacement?

For patients having hip revision surgery, rehabilitation is similar to those having initial replacement surgery. Physical therapy will be required, and your medical professional will advise you on the exercises you should be doing and if your level of activity should change compared to the rehabilitation period following your initial replacement.

For advice on your rehabilitation needs following a hip surgery or to discuss your eligibility for hip replacement, please call our Glenferrie Hospital Rooms on 03 9819 6934 to book a consultation with Dr Slattery. Appointments can also be requested via our contact form.

SOURCES

Jayakumar, Prakash et al. “A Patient-Focused Technology-Enabled Program Improves Outcomes in Primary Total Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery.” JB & JS open access vol. 2,3 e0023. 25 Jul. 2017, doi:10.2106/JBJS.OA.16.00023

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