Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions About Total Joint Surgery

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Total Joint Surgery Frequently Asked Questions

The following is generalized information. We recommend calling your provider with specific questions or concerns.

When can I drive?

Returning to driving can vary person to person. If you're still taking prescription pain medication it's not advisable to drive. Some surgeons do not allow patients to drive until after they have been seen in the office at four to six weeks after surgery. Discuss driving with your surgeon.

When can I return to work?

It depends on your profession. If you have a sedentary or desk job, you may return to work in approximately three to six weeks. If your work is physically intensive, you may require up to three months before you can return to full duty. In some cases, more or less time is necessary.

When can I fly and will my joint replacement set off metal detectors? 

You may travel as soon as you feel comfortable; however, we typically recommend patients avoid significant travel until their initial post-operative visit with a surgeon. It's recommended you get up to stretch or walk at least once an hour when taking long trips. The metal detector will most likely go off. You can show TSA staff a card, provided by your surgeon's office, indicating you've had a total joint replacement.

Will I need to go to rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility if I live alone?

Most patients return home after surgery. If during your stay it's determined by the team that a short stay in a rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility would be beneficial our care manager will discuss options and insurance coverage with you.

Do I need to set up a visiting nurse prior to surgery?

No, you can get outpatient therapy or your surgeon and therapists will suggest a visiting therapist to come to you house. Our care coordinator will help set this up for you prior to your discharge.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Your hospital stay could be as short as one day. Many of our hip replacement patients go home the day after surgery around 11 am. Some even go home the same day as the surgery. Most of our knee replacement patients go home the second postoperative day after surgery. Our team will discharge you when it's determined you are safe to return home. 

Will I experience a lot of pain after surgery?

You will have some pain after surgery. We use a scale of 0-10 to determine your level. Pain thresholds vary from person to person. We have different pain medication options that we will use to control your pain. We will be asking your pain level frequently and using pain medication when needed.

What should I bring to the Hospital?

Pack one to two outfits of loose fitting, comfortable clothing. Pants should should have extra room as you may experience swelling at the operative sight. Bring comfortable sneakers or loafers with a back.

Do I need to buy equipment?

Equipment needs vary greatly from person to person. Don’t buy equipment before your surgery unless it can be returned. Our Rehabilitation Services therapists will work with you to determine what equipment you may need. If you can borrow a walker, we usually recommend one with two wheels.  Some people may need only a cane or crutches, which we can provide. Our occupational therapists also can provide a reacher, long handled shoe horn, or leash to help lift your leg, if you need any of these devices. 

When can I return to physical activities? (i.e., going to the gym, biking, swimming, golfing, skiing, etc...)

It is not recommended to start sports prior to your follow up appointment with your surgeon. Discuss when you can return to sports with the surgeon at your visit.

You may return to most activities as tolerated including: walking, gardening, golfing, and easy hiking. Some of the best activities to help with motion and strengthening are swimming and using a stationary bicycle. Other activities typically enjoyed are fitness machines such as an elliptical. High impact activities such as running, jumping, and open field sporting activities, as well as tennis, squash or racquetball should be avoided.

Snow skiing is frequently enjoyed by patients who have a significant prior experience with skiing. However, downhill skiing does pose a risk. The risk comes from potential injury due to a serious fall or collision. You should avoid black diamond slopes and moguls. If you do wish to return to skiing, be aware of the risks and ski only under good conditions. We typically recommend patients “sit out” the initial season following surgery. If prior to surgery you've had little experience skiing, we advise against taking-up skiing after surgery.

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