After the operation
When you leave the operating theatre you’ll probably have an intravenous drip in your arm – this is a tube that allows any fluids and drugs you may need to flow straight into your bloodstream through a needle into your vein. You may also have either one or two suction drains in your hip – plastic tubes that drain away fluid produced as the body heals.
You’ll be taken to a recovery room or high-care unit until you’re fully awake and the doctors feel that your general condition is stable. Then you’ll be taken back to the ward, often with a pad or pillow strapped between your legs to keep them apart.
You’ll be given painkillers to help reduce pain as the effect of the anaesthetic wears off. These may include:
- local anaesthetic
- patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) – a system where you can control your own supply of painkiller going into a vein by pressing a button
- painkilling injections or tablets.
The drip and any drains are usually removed within 24 hours. You’ll then be able to start walking, first with a frame and soon with elbow crutches or sticks.
How quickly you get back to normal depends on many factors, including:
- your age
- your general health
- the strength of your muscles
- the condition of your other joints.
Accelerated rehabilitation programmes
If your surgeon feels that everything is going well, you may be included in an accelerated rehabilitation programme, also called the enhanced recovery programme (ERP). This programme is becoming more common and aims to get you walking and moving within 12–18 hours and home within a few days. If you’re suitable, the ERP will start when you go for your pre-admission clinic to make sure you’re fully prepared for the surgery and understand the programme. After the operation the programme aims to get you moving and eating normally as soon as possible, and when you’re discharged from hospital you’ll be given supporting therapy and follow-up checks. The programme focuses on making sure that you take an active role in your own recovery process.
Physiotherapy and occupational therapy
A physiotherapist will see you in hospital after the operation to help get you moving and advise you on exercises to strengthen your muscles. A physiotherapist or an occupational therapist will tell you the dos and don’ts after hip surgery – how to get in and out of a bed, a chair, the shower etc. It’s very important to follow this advice.
You shouldn’t bend the hips to more than 90º (e.g. squatting, or sitting in a low chair or couch) and never cross your legs because these positions could dislocate your new hip. An occupational therapist will advise you on the correct height of seating.
Before you leave hospital, an occupational therapist will assess your physical ability and your situation at home, and may give you equipment such as a raised toilet seat and gadgets to help you dress.
Read more about physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Most people are able to climb stairs and are ready to leave hospital within 4–8 days.
You’ll need to attend the outpatients’ department, usually 6–12 weeks after the operation, for a routine check-up to make sure your recovery is going well. You may also be offered outpatient physiotherapy if your doctors feel that this will help your recovery.
Once you’re at home the district nurse will change your bandages and take out any stitches (sometimes called sutures). If you have any problems with your wound healing then you should tell the hospital staff straight away.