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What to Expect Before, During and After Joint Replacement Surgery

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You’ve been suffering from joint pain. The activities you once enjoyed are now becoming increasingly difficult, if not impossible, due to painful, restricted motion. The joint pain can get to the point of drastically interfering with the quality of your life, and it can be discouraging and debilitating.

Fortunately, joint replacement surgery has come a long way and now includes minimally invasive procedures, and most patients find that after a joint replacement and proper rehabilitation they can return to most, if not all, activities they once enjoyed.

If you are a candidate for a joint replacement, you probably have many questions about what to expect from your journey before, during and after surgery.

To help you better understand the procedure and the recovery, here are some important insights from Dr. Daniel Craviotto, Orthopedic Surgeon, Cottage Center for Orthopedics. Patients trust the Cottage Center for Orthopedics for over 1,300 joint replacements each year, and the Center is nationally recognized with the Gold Seal of Approval™ from the Joint Commission and the Blue Distinction Center designation from national Blue Cross Blue Shield companies.

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Before Surgery

Pre-surgery is a much more important time than many people realize. “The patient’s post-operative recovery is dependent on their pre-operative fitness,” Dr. Craviotto says. “If you’re in shape, you may do extremely well at six weeks. If you’re not, it could take three months before you’re functioning well.”

  • After you are referred to an orthopedic surgeon or make an appointment on your own, the surgeon will conduct a physical exam with x-rays to determine the condition of the joint and if it is severe enough to need joint replacement surgery
  • The surgeon will ask how much the condition is bothering you, what treatments you have tried, and at what point you would want to consider surgical treatment
  • If surgery is chosen, then there’s a Total Joint Class patients need to take. “The more information patients have, the better they do,” Dr. Craviotto says. “Patients find the class very reassuring, and it helps them know what to expect
  • Next, you receive a call from the surgery scheduler who will set the date for your procedure
  • Two weeks before surgery, you will need an appointment with your primary care physician for an examination and lab work
  • Then, one week before surgery, you will have a pre-op visit at the hospital when a nurse will explain what will happen and go through a checklist of what you need to do to prepare for a healthy recovery
  • You will meet with the physical therapy team to understand what they do and how they can assist in helping you start to regain mobility
  • Finally, the discharge planner will go over home therapy options for you and who provides them

At the Hospital

  • You will arrive 90 minutes before surgery
  • The surgical procedure normally takes about two hours
  • Physical therapy actually starts the same day. You will be standing and walking some with assistance the same day as surgery
  • Most patients are in the hospital for two nights and three days
  • Recent advances in implant design and materials, along with anesthesia providing pain control with fewer narcotics, result in quicker healing and mobility for patients

Back Home

  • Before returning home, it is essential to have arrangements for a designated caregiver who will help with everyday tasks like cooking, shopping and laundry for at least your first two weeks of recovery at home
  • You will have home physical therapy for three times a week for the first two weeks
  • Then you will have outpatient physical therapy two times a week for six weeks. You will start to notice improvements in your mobility within two to four weeks
  • For support while walking at first, most patients will use a walker for one to two weeks and then a cane for two weeks after that

While recovery times can vary depending on pre-operative fitness and other factors, it is important to know that improvements continue for 12 months after surgery as muscles and soft tissue get stronger and range of movement expands.

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