What to expect after the operation
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Helping you to make a speedy recovery after total hip replacement
What to expect after the operation
You will have a single scar in the region of your hip and this will measure anywhere between 8 and 20 cms (3 and 8 inches). The length of scar is dependent in part on obesity and musculature. The exact position of the scar will depend on the approach that your surgeon uses to enter the hip joint and can be on the front, side or back of your hip. The wound can be closed in a number of ways including with sutures that need to be removed, or dissolvable sutures, with staples or with glue.
If you have stitches which need to be removed, this can usually be done by the practice nurse at your GP surgery about 10 days after your operation. You should make an appointment for this as soon as you get home. Your hospital should already have given you advice about how your wounds are closed and how to care for them.
How your wound is closed will influence whether you need to keep your scar covered. If your surgeon has used staples or stitches then the wound should be kept covered until these are removed. If your stitches are buried, then the wound only needs to be covered for the first few days and you will not have to worry about getting the scar wet, but follow the advice given from your surgical team about how to shower and bathe. If there is leakage from the wound, you should inform the surgeon immediately.
Once you have left hospital, you may continue to receive physiotherapy, but this is not always required. You should continue the exercises taught to you by the physiotherapist while in hospital and follow the advised precautions. The hip joint will regain mobility of its own accord. Walking is encouraged and you should walk as far as is comfortable every day.
Preventing blood clots
Measures to prevent clots in the leg need to be taken following hip replacement, normally continuing for about six weeks. In addition to the exercises advised by your surgeon and physiotherapist and early mobilisation, your surgeon is likely to advise a number of other measures, dependent on what is best for you. You may be given an injection of a medicine, such as Heparin sodium, which is used to prevent blood clots.
You will experience pain and discomfort around the scars, especially for the first few days and it is likely that you will require pain relief on a reducing basis over the first few weeks.
Swelling of the leg is very variable and can be quite troublesome to some patients for several weeks. Swelling can cause the leg to ache and indeed make the leg feel very heavy. To avoid this, sitting for long periods is discouraged. In between frequent walks, it is better to be in a reclining position. Don’t worry if the leg becomes very bruised. This will settle in due course.
Your body is using energy to heal itself, so you will feel more tired than normal - sometimes it can come upon you suddenly. You will also have lost some blood during the operation, as well as into the soft tissues of the leg after the operation, and it takes a few weeks for the body to return the blood level to normal. You may be given an iron supplement to help this. You should try to eat a healthy, balanced diet to help ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs to heal.
Crutches and walking sticks
After your procedure, it may be necessary for you to use crutches or walking sticks for a while. Your physiotherapist will measure you and provide you with a pair of crutches, and show you how to use them.
It is quite normal that you will not have a bowel action for the first 2 to 4 days after the operation. When you go home, it’s important to have plenty of fibre in your diet while you are recovering. In addition, fresh fruit and vegetables will help to keep your bowels moving regularly. Drink plenty of water, but not more than 2 litres a day.