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Life After Joint Replacement Surgery

Helpful information for patients as they resume daily activity after joint replacement surgery:

Around the House

Kitchen Tips

  • Patients should not get down on their knees to scrub the floors and instead they should use a mop and long-handled brushes.
  • Plan ahead. Gather all cooking supplies at one time. Then, sit to prepare the meal.
  • Place frequently used cooking supplies and utensils where they can be reached without too much bending or stretching.
  • To provide a better working height, use a high stool or put cushions on the chair when preparing meals.

Bathroom Tips

  • Patients should not get down on their knees to scrub the bathtub. Instead, they should use a mop and long-handled brushes.

Safety and Avoiding Falls

  • Pick up throw rugs and tack down loose carpeting. Cover slippery surfaces with carpets that are firmly anchored to the floor or that have non-skid backs.
  • Be aware of all floor hazards such as pets, small objects or uneven surfaces.
  • Provide good lighting throughout. Install nightlights in the bathrooms, bedrooms and hallways.
  • Keep extension cords and telephone cords out of pathways. Do not run wires under rugs, this is a fire hazard.
  • Do not wear open toe slippers or shoes without backs. They do not provide adequate support and can lead to slips and falls.
  • Sit in chairs with arms that have at least an 18 inch seat height. It makes it easier to get up.
  • Rise slowly from either a sitting or lying position so as to not get light headed.
  • Do not lift heavy objects for the first three months and then only with permission from the surgeon.
  • Stop and think. Use good judgment.

Dos and Don'ts
Whether they have reached all the recommended goals in three months or not, all joint patients need to have a regular exercise program to maintain their fitness and the health of the muscles around their joints. With both their orthopedic and primary care physicians' permission, they should be on a regular exercise program 3 to 4 times per week lasting 20 to 30 minutes. Impact activities such as running and singles tennis may put too much load on the joint and are not recommended. High-risk activities such as downhill skiing are likewise discouraged because of the risk of fractures around the prosthesis and damage to the prosthesis itself. Infections are always a potential problem and patients may need antibiotics for prevention.

General Tips 

  • Patients should take antibiotics one hour before having dental work or other invasive procedures for their lifetime.
  • Although the risks are very low for postoperative infections, it is important to realize that the risk remains. A prosthetic join could possibly attract the bacteria from an infection located in another part of the patient's body. If the patient develops a fever of more than 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or sustains an injury such as a deep cut or puncture wound, they should clean it as best they can, put a sterile dressing or Band-Aid on it and notify their doctor. The closer the injury is to their prosthesis, the bigger the concern. Occasionally, antibiotics may be needed. Superficial scratches may be treated with topical antibiotic ointment. Patients should notify their doctor if the area becomes painful or reddened.
  • Patients will be given an implant card by their surgeon that states they had a joint replacement. They should carry the card with them, as they may set off security alarms at airports, malls, etc.
  • When traveling, patients should stop and change positions hourly to prevent the joint from tightening.
  • Patients should visit their surgeon yearly unless otherwise recommended. Routine initial, mid-term and long-term follow up is a valuable part of their joint replacement care.

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