Frequently Asked Questions
Total Joint Replacement FAQs | Arthroscopic Surgery FAQs | Hand & Upper Extremity FAQs
Total Joint Replacement FAQs
How long does the surgery take?
A primary (first time) total hip or knee replacement generally takes between sixty and ninety minutes in the operating room. This is followed by a minimum one hour stay in the recovery room. A revision hip or knee will generally take longer, as the procedure is more complex. The physician may be able to give you a more accurate prediction based on what he sees on your x-ray.
What should I bring to the hospital?
A toothbrush; comb; a small amount of money (ten or twenty dollars); pajamas, nightgown or robe; swimsuit for your physical therapy in the pool; sturdy slippers with a closed heel (velcro closures are especially good); your insurance information; and a good book.
Leave your valuables and medications at home. The hospital will not allow you to take your own medicines while you are a patient. However, you should bring a complete list of your medications, including strengths and dosages, to be sure you are getting all the medicines you need during your hospitalization.
If you have had a joint replacement in the past, any equipment you still have at home such as a knee immobilizer, crutches or walker can be brought to the hospital with you. This will eliminate your being charged again for such items. If you are bringing items from home, please make sure to label them with your name.
I have planned a big dinner out with my family the night before the surgery. Is this a problem?
This could be. Although it is tempting to plan an extravagant "last supper" before checking into the hospital, it is never a good idea to eat a huge meal prior to a general anesthetic, even if it is many hours before. Your meal will not be fully digested and will sit in the bowel longer than it should, which may cause a problem post-operatively. Our recommendation is that meals 24 - 48 hours prior to your hospital admission should be relatively light and low in residue, to insure normal bowel function after surgery.
How long will I be in the hospital?
An average hospital stay is three to four days. Your discharge date will be determined by your progress in physical therapy. When you are able to get in and out of bed without help, you can go home.
When do I get out of bed for the first time?
In most cases, you will be out of bed the day after surgery.
Will I be on crutches after surgery?
You will need crutches or a walker for a minimum of six weeks after surgery to give your new joint time to heal.
When can I return to work?
That depends on the type of work that you do. As a general rule, you should plan on a minimum six weeks hiatus from work while you recuperate. Thereafter, your return to work will depend on the level of activity your job requires of you, as well as your progress. You might also investigate the possibility of returning to work on a part-time basis in order to make the transition back to work easier.
Can I donate my own blood?
We encourage it. We will give you details about how to do that at the time that we schedule your surgery. You will have plenty of time to get enough blood donated prior to your hospital admission.
I have heard that infections are of concern with total joint replacements. Will an infection interfere with my plans for surgery?
Yes. Any current infection, such as an infected toenail, draining sinus, bladder infection or dental abscess may impact your surgery. We do not like to operate on anyone with a current infection because it increases the risk for infection in the new joint. Any recent infection must be well controlled prior to elective surgery of major proportion. Please report any symptoms of infection to us as soon as you suspect a problem so that we can treat you promptly and get you in top form for surgery.
Why do I need a physical before surgery?
We routinely order a complete history and physical with an internist prior to your surgery. This is done for your protection, as we want to be sure that you are healthy enough to tolerate a general anesthetic. Your physical will be scheduled for you within a week of your surgery as part of our scheduling process. If you are coming in from out of town for your surgery, you will be seen by the internist in the hospital after you are admitted.
I have had the the same family doctor for years. Can he do my preoperative evaluation?
We would prefer that you see one of the internists that we suggest. We have found this to be the easiest for everyone, as these physicians are very familiar with our protocol and are available to follow your hospitalization. We understand that you may have some anxiety about seeing a new doctor; the internists we work with are very competent, thorough and will provide quality care.
Will I need therapy after I leave the hospital?
If you have had a knee replacement, we will advise physical therapy for four weeks after discharge. We can make some recommendations for therapists if you would like. If you have had hip surgery, therapy will probably not be necessary.
Can I get my therapy done at home?
This is actually more of an insurance question. If your carrier will approve an in-home therapy program, we will be happy to give you a prescription for in-home therapy. Otherwise, you will need to visit a physical therapy office for your treatments. The home care department can help you evaluate your insurance coverage for therapy before you leave the hospital.
I live alone. Will I be able to take care of myself at home after surgery?
It is helpful if you can arrange for someone to be with you for at least the first week at home. If this is not possible, there are other options. We can contact social services or home care to provide visiting nurse service at home on a several-times-a-week basis.
I am coming in from out of town for my surgery. Will I need a follow-up visit with my physician?
The normal post-operative program includes follow-up office visits at six weeks, twelve weeks, six months, one year and annually thereafter. The physician prefers to see all of his post-operative patients in the office at six weeks, if at all possible. Thereafter, if you are not having any problems, you can just send x-rays at the normal follow-up intervals and he will review them. We will then contact you after the physician has had a chance to review your films to inform you of your progress.
Will I be seen by my physician for postoperative office visits?
If your post-operative progress has been satisfactory, you may see one of the physician's fellows for your follow-up office visit. These fellows are also orthopedic surgeons and always work closely with our physicians. They will confer with him about your progress to insure a consistent approach.
Will I be able to get on a plane and fly home immediately after my hospital discharge?
Yes. People do it all the time. You should be comfortable with your activity restrictions by the time you leave the hospital, which would include how to accommodate getting in and out of a car. If necessary, resources are available to help you with such arrangements as transportation to the airport and plane reservations.
When making your reservations, it is advisable to communicate to the airline personnel that you have just had surgery and will need some special assistance boarding and deplaning. It is also helpful if you can reserve a bulkhead seat to allow maximum extension of your operated leg. If you have a long flight ahead of you, plan on getting up and walking in the aisles periodically to decrease stiffness. It is a good idea to be sure you have at least a small number of pain pills with you which we will prescribe for you when you leave the hospital.
Will my new metal joint set off the metal detectors in airport security?
It is likely that most U.S. security systems are sensitive enough to pick up the metal in your new hip or knee. However, just in case, you will be provided a card to carry in your wallet that verifies the presence of a prosthetic joint. Please request one of these from the physician's nurse at your six week checkup.