You may be wondering how long you’ll need to be in the hospital after joint replacement. Every individual is different, and insurance coverage will differ as well. Generally speaking, a total of 4 days (including the day of the surgery) is typical. It is important to note that each patient experience differs and you will be discharged when you have achieved the goals outlined by your orthopaedic surgeon.
On the first day after your surgery, you may get out of bed and begin physical and occupational therapy, typically several brief sessions a day. These are first steps on your way to getting back into the routines of your life!
During your hospital stay, your orthopaedic surgeon works closely with nurses, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure the success of your surgery and rehabilitation. Usually a case manager is assigned to work with you as you move through your rehabilitation routines. As the days progress, you should become more independent using two crutches or a walker.
If you need to work with a physical therapist after your joint replacement, the therapist may begin an exercise program to be performed in bed and in the therapy department. The physical therapist will work with you to help you:
The physical therapist (or nurses) will also show you:
Discharge from the hospital will depend, to some extent, on your progress in physical therapy. The physical therapist will likely give you a list of activities, exercises, and “do’s and don’ts” when you leave the hospital, and you may also have the assistance of an occupational therapist or nurse to help with special needs.
When you’re ready for discharge, your surgeon will determine whether you can best continue to recover at home (the usual procedure) or in a facility where you can receive specialized rehabilitation help. If you do go to another facility, the goal will be to return you to your home, able to move about with a safe level of independence, within 3 to 5 days.
You shouldn’t be surprised if you feel a little shaky and uncertain for the first day or two after you’re discharged. However, you should soon get a routine going and gain confidence in your new joint — the start of a new life with less pain. (As with many surgeries, pain medication may be prescribed while you are healing.)
You may need a walker and/or crutches for about 6 weeks, then use a cane for another 6 weeks or so. You’ll be in touch with your doctor or orthopaedic surgeon as well as your case manager, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to ask questions or discuss concerns as well as to report your progress.
Be aware that there are some things you should not do after joint surgery. It’s important to have realistic expectations. For example, artificial joints have limitations:
Your healthcare provider will instruct you about limiting your activities following the surgery. Remember: It is very important to follow these instructions!
The decision to resume a normal daily routine is one that only you and your doctor or orthopaedic surgeon can make. However, there are some general guidelines that your doctor may give you: