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Getting ready for joint-replacement surgery

A man sits on an exam table as a doctor looks at his knee

What you should do to prepare for joint replacement.

You've tried other treatments to relieve the pain of your aching joint. They haven't worked. So to get relief from the pain and get back to living the active life you enjoy, you and your doctor have decided on joint-replacement surgery. But before you have the surgery, you will need to prepare physically and mentally.

By planning ahead and following recommendations from your doctor, you can help ensure a smooth surgery and a speedy recovery, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Learn about the surgery

Talk to your doctor about what to expect before, during and after surgery. The more you understand, the better prepared you will be to face the challenges and make the necessary life changes following joint-replacement surgery.

Don't be afraid to ask plenty of questions. Find out what you will need to do to prepare for surgery, how long you will be in the hospital, what type of artificial joint you will receive, how to manage pain and what your recovery period will be like.

Prepare your body

The physical preparations you make before surgery can affect the outcome of the procedure and the time it takes you to recover.

The AAOS offers presurgery tips, such as:

  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking can delay the healing process and slow down your recovery from surgery.
  • Make sure your doctor knows about any drugs or medicines that you are taking.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet in the weeks before surgery. If you are overweight, ask your doctor about a weight-loss program.
  • Ask your doctor if there are any presurgical exercises you can do. If you are having a hip or knee replaced, exercises to strengthen your upper body can help you prepare to use crutches or a walker after surgery.

Plan ahead for recovery

You should be able to begin using your new joint shortly after surgery. But recovery from joint-replacement surgery takes time, and you will probably experience some pain for at least a few weeks.

By planning ahead before surgery to make life at home simpler after surgery, you can help make your recovery easier and faster.

The AAOS recommends that you:

  • Arrange for someone to take you home from the hospital and stay with you for several days after surgery.
  • Consider going to a rehabilitation facility until your condition improves if you live alone or can't find someone to help you.
  • Plan your meals. Cook and freeze several meals before you go into the hospital. Or stock up on ready-made foods that you enjoy.
  • Place kitchen and other household items you need in easy-to-reach places so you don't have reach up or bend down.
  • Rearrange furniture so that you can easily get around your home. Remove any rugs that could cause you to slip.
  • Look into equipping your bathroom with a shower chair, gripping bar or raised toilet.
  • Set up a comfortable place where you will spend most of your time. Place items such as a telephone, television remote control, radio, facial tissues, wastebasket, reading materials and medications within reach.
  • Apply for a temporary parking permit for a disabled person.

Joint-replacement surgery is successful for most people, according to the AAOS. The more you work with your doctor and prepare for the challenges following surgery, the smoother your recovery will be.

Reviewed 2/29/2024

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