A little planning and preparation can help your hip replacement post-surgical recovery go more smoothly. These 17 suggested to-do items can get you started.
Certain to-do items apply to almost everyone (such as installing a raised toilet seat) and others depend on your specific circumstances. Your surgeon’s office can advise you.
- Lose excess weight
If you’re overweight, your doctor may recommend that you lose a few pounds before hip replacement surgery. Ask your doctor for specific weight-loss goals and the best ways to reach those goals. Losing weight can help decrease the chances of post-surgical complications, such as infection.
- Quit smoking
Nicotine use affects blood flow and can slow down your recovery and cause complications. Your surgeon or primary care provider may be able to give you smoking cessation tips or refer you to a medical professional who can help you quit.
- Stretch and strengthen muscles
You may be given some exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding your hip, which may help your recovery after surgery. 1 Torisho C, Mohaddes M, Gustafsson K, Rolfson O. Minor influence of patient education and physiotherapy interventions before total hip replacement on patient-reported outcomes: an observational study of 30,756 patients in the Swedish Hip Arthroplasty Register. Acta Orthop. 2019;90(4):306–311. doi:10.1080/17453674.2019.1605669
See 4 examples of hip strengthening exercises: Other Preparations for Total Hip Replacement Surgery.
- Find a driver
You won't be able to drive for a few weeks after surgery—the exact amount of time depends on how long you take narcotic pain medication and when your full strength and reflexes return. Arrange for a friend or family member to drive you in the meantime.
Ask your surgeon’s office for a temporary tag for disabled parking spaces.
- Avoid blood thinners
If you take medications that cause your blood to be thinner—such as aspirin or warfarin—you may be asked to stop taking them a few weeks beforehand.
- Start newly prescribed medications/supplements
You may be directed to start taking new medications or supplements, such as iron supplements, which can help prevent post-surgical anemia (low red blood cell counts).
- Consider first-floor sleeping arrangements
If you normally sleep upstairs, you may want to arrange to sleep on the first floor to avoid navigating stairs for the first week or two. Occasionally, insurance will pay to have a hospital bed temporarily set up on a home’s first floor.
While some people need or appreciate first-floor sleeping arrangements, it is not typically required. Talk to your surgeon or surgical staff for advice.
- Adjust your bed height
Just as the location of your bed matters, the height of your mattress can also make a difference. You may want to temporarily raise or lower your mattress’s height to make getting in and out of bed easier after surgery.
- Be ready to use cold therapies
Get an ice pack, so you're ready to use cold therapy to relieve pain after surgery. Cold packs should always be wrapped in a towel. Remember you’ll want to limit your cold therapy to 15 or 20 minutes to avoid possible damage to the skin.
- Plan for ergonomic seating
Make sure you have a firm chair with armrests and a high seat to sit in after surgery. You don’t need to go out and buy an expensive chair. You can use cushions to raise the seat level, if needed.
- Install grab bars and railings
Grab bars in the bathroom next to the toilet and tub can prevent falls. Wall railings can also be helpful on stairwells (if you don't have them already). Consider getting a shower chair and a toilet seat lift to make bathroom activities easier and safer.
- Arrange for walking aids
During recovery, you will need a walker, crutches, or cane. Check and see if your doctor or hospital will provide one for your use. If they don’t, find out what you should look for when buying one. Remember to bring it to the hospital or ambulatory surgical center (ASC) on the day of your surgery. The medical staff will teach you how to use it.
- Invest in long-handled shoe-horn
In the days following surgery, bending over to put on shoes can be a challenge. A sturdy, long-handled shoe horn can help you put on shoes without bending over and straining your hip.
- Rearrange commonly used items
Move commonly used items in the kitchen, bathroom, and elsewhere to be at waist level. Try to avoid storing essentials in cupboards and drawers that require deep bending or squatting.
- Set up a nightstand and side table
In between doing recommended physical therapy exercises and walking, you will probably spend a lot of time sitting or lying down in your bedroom or living room. Make sure you have a nightstand, side table, or cart in each room to hold your most needed items, such as a TV remote, cell phone, pain medications, water glass, and tissues.
- Remove tripping hazards
Eliminate possible tripping hazards by moving loose rugs, electrical cords, and pet beds and toys, if necessary.
- Stock up
Stock up on staples like canned and frozen foods, pre-made meals, and toiletry items before surgery. If possible, arrange for someone who can bring you meals or perishable items like milk and fresh fruits and vegetables during the early stages of your recovery.
These tips are just suggestions. Your surgeon and their staff will advise you on how to prepare for surgery. Talk to them if you have any questions.
Also, it’s normal to feel a little nervous as your hip replacement surgery date approaches. Remember, the vast majority of hip replacement surgeries go smoothly. When asked, 87% of hip replacement patients say their pre-surgical expectations were met. 2 Mancuso et al. Fulfillment of Patients' Expectations for Total Hip Arthroplasty. The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. 2009 Sep;91(9):2073-2078.