10 common questions answered about Hip Replacements

If you are having a hip replacement, you probably have a few questions about what you can expect from the surgery and rehabilitation. Here are answers to some of the common questions that patients ask about their hip replacement surgery.

What does a hip replacement entail?

A hip replacement takes about two hours. Your surgeon will make a cut between your hip and thigh and separate the hip joint. One of the recent innovative and highly successful technologies for hip replacements is robotic assistance for surgery. A Mako robotic arm assists the surgeon to replace the diseased hip joint with a prosthetic device. The ball of your joint is then put back together with your socket, and the skin is closed with stitches or clips and covered with a dressing.

When will my stitches be removed?

Dr Mackenzie uses stitches which are under the skin which are absorbable and not need to be removed. The dressings can be kept in place until they fall off on their own. If they haven’t fallen off by the two-week mark, you can remove them yourself.

What is the recovery time after hip replacement surgery?

Everyone heals differently after a hip replacement. In many cases, your mobility will be restricted for up to a month and you may need to use crutches or a walker during this time. As your recovery progresses, your doctor will advance you to a walking cane and eventually advise you to move around without any assistive devices. Full recovery can take between six weeks to three months after surgery, depending on your body and whether you follow your doctor’s advice and prescribed exercises. Some patients will recover faster than this and be off all walking aids in a week or two

How long will I be on pain medication?

The pain will usually decrease rapidly during the first few weeks, however you will likely require some form of pain medication for the first few weeks of your recovery. Most patients are able to wean off stronger medication and switch to over-the-counter pain medication after a week or two. Again, the need for pain medication really depends on the individual.

When can I return to work after a hip replacement?

This really depends on what you do for work. If your profession involves a lot of activity and moving around, you may require up to three months before you can return to work. If your work is more sedentary, you may require just one month or less. Your surgeon will advise how long you will need off work.

When can I drive again after hip replacement surgery?

This can come down to which hip you had surgery on and the car you drive. A manual transmission puts more pressure on both your hips, whilst an automatic transmission car really only puts pressure on your right hip. If you have an auto car and have had surgery in your left hip, you may return to driving when you feel comfortable. If you have surgery on your right hip or have a manual car, you should wait at least one month before returning to driving. Remember not to drive if you have taken strong pain medication and ask your doctor if they think you are ready to start driving.

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Will my hip replacement be covered by private or public health insurance?

Australia’s public health system does provide hip replacements, however, you will usually wait 12 months to receive the surgery. This obviously means you will need to live with your pain and immobility for longer. Alternatively, if you have treatment through a private hospital it generally takes finding a time which is convenient for you and your surgeon. You may have some out-of-pocket costs through the private system.

What activities can I do after hip replacement surgery?

You may return to most activities when you become comfortable with the movement in your hip – generally you will be back to most activities between 6 weeks and 3 months. Activities like light walking, swimming and stationary bicycling can help strengthen your hip and improve your range of motion. You should avoid high impact activities, such as running, downhill skiing, and singles tennis, and any activities that put your new hip at risk of dislocation.

When can I travel?

You can go on a holiday or travel short distances for work as soon as you feel comfortable.You should wait at least 3 months before flying long distances due to the risk of blood clots.

Will I notice anything different about my hip?

Patients with new hip joints generally report that their new hip feels completely natural. Your leg with the new hip joint may feel longer than before. If you had arthritis in your joint, the disease may cause the bone to shorten. After your surgery, your hip will be restored to its original height.

You may feel some numbness around your surgical scar; however, this generally goes away after a year or so.

One of the best things you can do ahead of your hip replacement surgery is to gain a full understanding of how the treatment and recovery works. Dr Stuart MacKenzie, one of the top Orthopaedic Surgeons in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley, has created a free specialist e-guide - Your complete guide to hip replacement – to help you better understand the procedure.

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31 Jul 2019

Published by Stuart MacKenzie

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