Better Me

These Steps Can Help You Get Home Sooner After Joint Replacement

If you need joint replacement surgery, you probably would like to get home as soon as possible afterward. That way, you can sleep in your own bed and recover where you are most comfortable, instead of having to stay at the hospital.

Hips and knees are the joints that most commonly need to be replaced. And according to the National Library of Medicine, most people stay in the hospital for one to three days after having one of these joints replaced. But sometimes surgeons can perform these procedures in the morning, and you can go home the same day.

The type of surgery you have can make a difference in how long you stay in the hospital. Surgeons can replace hip joints with techniques that access the joint from either the front or the back of the hip. If you’re a candidate for surgery from the front of the hip, called an anterior approach, you may have a faster recovery with less pain and muscle trauma.

And if you need a knee replacement, depending on the condition of your knee, you may be able to have a partial knee replacement, also called a unicompartmental knee replacement, which is a less-invasive procedure. You may be able to go home more quickly and recover faster with a partial knee replacement.

“The length of time you’ll spend in the hospital depends on what joint you’re having replaced, how complex your surgical procedure is and what other health conditions you have,” said Gens Goodman, DO, an orthopedic surgeon at Banner Health in Tucson, AZ.

What can you do to help you go home sooner?

There are a few things you can do in the weeks before your surgery to help reduce your infection risk and help promote healing:

  • Avoid dental work, especially tooth extractions and periodontal treatments, since bacteria can spread from your mouth to the surgical site. In fact, your doctor may recommend a presurgical dental exam to check for signs of infection.
  • Stop using tobacco or nicotine. According to the American College of Surgeons, if you quit smoking four to six weeks before surgery and don’t smoke for four weeks after surgery, you can reduce your risk of wound complications by 50%.
  • Talk to your surgeon about which medications you should stop taking and when you should stop taking them.
  • Lose weight if you need to. Losing weight lowers your risk of complications and makes it more likely your surgery will be successful, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
  • Strengthen the muscles and improve range of motion around the joint that will be replaced so you can recover more quickly after surgery.
  • Choose a healthy diet so your body is well nourished as it goes into recovery. Protein, calcium and vitamin D are especially important.

You also want to plan for the help you will need at home, so you are safe and comfortable there. You may need assistance moving around, getting dressed or preparing meals. And you will need a way to get to and from your appointments with your doctor and physical therapist.

Your medical team can also take steps to help you return home quickly. “Implant technology, surgical techniques and anesthesia are continually improving,” Dr. Goodman said. Those improvements help shave time off the length of the hospital stay.

Immediately after your surgery, your surgeon, nurses, and physical therapist will work with you to ensure you have the optimal medication levels, pain control, treatment and therapy to help speed your return home.

And once you get home, your work isn’t over. Taking the right steps can help speed your recovery. That means managing your pain appropriately, seeing your physical therapist, performing recommended at-home exercises and continuing to eat well to help your body heal and grow stronger.

The bottom line

If you have knee or hip replacement surgery a lengthy hospital stay may not be needed. With the appropriate preparation prior to surgery and the use of recovery protocols after surgery you may be able to minimize your hospital stay, oftentimes going home the same day. If you would like to talk to a health care provider about your options for controlling joint pain, reach out to Banner Health.

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