What to Expect After Hip Replacement Surgery

The following guidelines will discuss precautions to protect your new hip, exercises to increase your strength and range of motion, and techniques to manage activities of daily living to help you become an active partner in your care and recovery.

Normal Hip Joint 

Your new hip is a ball and socket joint where the thigh bone (femur) meets the pelvis. A healthy hip has layers of smooth cartilage that covers the ball-shaped end of the femur and socket-part of the pelvis. The cartilage acts as a cushion and allows the ball of the femur to glide easily within the socket of the pelvis. The muscles around the joint support your weight and help move the joint smoothly so that you can walk without pain.

Your Replacement Hip ProsthesisHip Joint

Your new hip prosthesis has a femur and pelvis part made from metal and plastics. The cup replaces the worn hip socket of your pelvis. The ball replaces the worn end of your femur. The ball is attached to stem that fits into your femur.

The cup and stem are sometimes cemented, or metals may have may have a porous surface that bone will grow into and create a tight fit. Your doctor and therapist will talk to you about positions to avoid after surgery. The best rule to follow is if a position or movement hurts, avoid it. If you suspect you have dislocated your hip, do not walk on it (call your surgeon and/or go to the emergency department). 

Guidelines for Your New Hip Joint

Safety Tips for Home

  • Use handrails on steps. Use low-heeled or flat shoes.
  • Avoid wet or waxed floors.
  • Keep your floors free of items you could trip on.
  • Throw rugs or small objects should be kept off the floor for your safety.
  • Watch for pets or other animals that could get in your way.
  • Avoid ice or snow.

SleepingSleeping with pillows

You will likely be most comfortable sleeping on your back with a pillow between your knees or on the opposite side of your new hip with a pillow between your knees. Sleeping on your stomach or on your new hip will be uncomfortable and should be avoided for several weeks after surgery.

Blood Clot Prevention

Follow your orthopaedic surgeon's instructions carefully to minimize the potential of blood clots, which can occur during the first several weeks of your recovery. Warning signs of possible blood clots in your leg include:

  • Increasing pain in your calf.
  • Tenderness or redness above or below your knee.
  • Increasing swelling in your calf, ankle, and foot.

Warning signs that a blood clot has traveled to your lung include:

  • Sudden increase in shortness of breath. Sudden onset of chest pain.
  • Localized chest pain with coughing.
Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of these signs.

Preventing Infection

The most common causes of infection following total 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 knee replacement and cause an infection. Following your surgery, you should take antibiotics prior to dental work or any surgical procedure that could allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream.

Recovery for the First Three Months

Your focus for the first couple weeks after surgery should be on swelling management and walking. Perform the exercises we give you and walk around your house as much as you feel like you can, otherwise spend time with your leg elevated and iced.

We expect you to rest often since your body is recovering from a major surgery. After you initial checkup with your surgical team, we recommend that you start to perform exercises standing, as opposed to laying down.

You will receive instructions for exercises at your clinic visit. This is also a good time to think about visiting a clinic for therapy if you want, since it is acceptable to start using equipment at the clinic, such as a stationary bike.

After your six-week checkup with your surgeon, you will likely be told that you can start activities that interests you. Running and jumping are not advised after a joint replacement, but starting to ease into activities such as hiking, golfing, swimming, gardening, and the like, is a good idea.

It is important that you find an activity that you enjoy and that you can make a part of your daily routine. Formal therapy will end at some point, and having a plan for how to continue to be active and keep your joint healthy is important. Talk with your therapist about specific ideas that may work well for you.