Total Joint Replacement FAQs

Will I be awake during the surgery?

During the surgery, an anesthesiologist will administer an anesthetic that will provide total pain relief. There are different types of anesthetics: a general anesthetic will put you into a deep sleep, while a regional anesthetic will numb specific areas only.

Most people will get both the general anesthetic and the regional anesthetic. You will not remember the surgery once you awaken. You and your anesthesiologist will discuss which method is best for you prior to your surgery. Please feel free to discuss any concerns you may have.

Other than my scar, will my joint be any different?

Some people notice a major clicking sound when they bend their joints. This is a result of the prosthesis, or artificial parts, coming in contact with each other. This is normal and is not a cause for concern. Most total knee patients notice that the knee feels “different” but without pain. Most total hip patients feel like they have a normal hip again.

How long will I be at the ambulatory surgery center?

Joint replacement patients usually stay with us for 23 hours, however, some may leave earlier. Before you leave, you must meet certain functional goals. Physical therapy after surgery is very important.

Will I need a walker, crutches or cane?

People progress at their own rate. Normally, patients use an assistive device such as a walker and progress to a cane afterwards. Your therapist and your physician will inform you on when you can stop using these devices.

Will I need help at home the first week?

Although you will be well on your way to recovery when you leave the surgery center, arrange to have someone assist you with meals, medications, dressing and all other daily activities for the first week or two. Be sure to alert the joint care team if you live alone.

To make the transition to home easier, plan ahead. Prior to coming to the hospital, take care of such things as getting prescriptions filled, changing beds, doing the laundry, washing floors, arranging for someone to cut grass, walking the dog, stocking up on groceries, etc. Your job after surgery is to focus on your recovery, not household tasks.              

Will I need therapy when I go home?

For knee replacements, yes. For hip replacements, there is a possibility that you may need therapy. Therapy is a very important component of your recovery. The number of therapy sessions is based on individual progress.

To a large extent, your progress will be determined by how much effort you put into your exercise routines.

Your therapists will monitor your progress after surgery and will help determine your therapy needs after discharge. Your nurse or surgeon’s office staff will arrange for your therapy before going home.

Why should I exercise before surgery?

The better the condition of your muscles prior to surgery, the easier and faster your recuperation is expected to be. It is important to learn the exercises and be comfortable with them prior to surgery so that you can continue them once you return home. Starting the exercises now will build muscle tone and pave the way to quicker recovery. Begin doing the exercises immediately, unless you experience pain in your joint.

Are there any activities that I should avoid initially?

Keeping your new joint moving will help your recovery process. However, you should return to your normal activities gradually. In some instances, you may have to work your way to a particular activity. For example, taking a five-mile walk on your first time out is not realistic. Rather, walk until you begin to get tired. Add distance to each subsequent walk until you have reached your goal.

You will be instructed by your joint care team to avoid specific positions of the joint. Avoid high impact activities such as jogging, singles tennis, basketball, downhill skiing, football, etc. Consult your surgeon prior to participating in any high impact or injury prone sports.

When can I return to work?

The physical demands required for your job, as well as your own progress, will determine when you can return to work. Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to work.

When can I drive?

How soon you can resume driving will depend on several factors such as your progress, type of vehicle you drive, which side of your body was the joint replaced, and if you are still taking prescription pain medications. Your return to driving is largely dependent on your progress as well as your commitment to your exercises and physical rehabilitation. You should NOT consider driving until you are released to do so by your surgeon.

When can I resume having sexual intercourse?

After surgery, it will take time to regain your strength as well as your confidence in your new joint. Most people feel able, physically and mentally, to engage in sexual activity about 4-6 weeks after surgery. Talk to your surgeon if you have any questions regarding this.

Are there any positions that should be avoided during sexual intercourse?

For total hip replacement patients, consult your surgeon prior to resuming this activity. For total knee replacement patients, positions involving kneeling on your new joint should be avoided at least initially. It is best to use a side lying position in the early recovery stages. Pillows maybe used to provide support and comfort to the affected leg. As your recuperation progresses, lying face up using a pillow or two under the knees to create a comfortable bend is an alternative to side lying position. For male joint replacement patients, consult your surgeon first prior to assuming the top position.