How long does it take to recover from total hip replacement surgery?

Perhaps the most common questions patients have about hip replacement are regarding the recovery process and recovery time. There is no definite answer, as each individual’s situation differs significantly from anyone else’s, but typically patients return to normal activity within 3-6 months.

To be more specific, health care providers refer to a patient’s hip replacement surgery recovery time and rehab into two segments – short-term and long-term. Short-term recovery involves walking with minimal or no aids and giving up major pain relievers for simple over-the-counter medications, and is generally achieved within 10 to 12 weeks. Long-term recovery involves the complete healing of surgical wounds and internal soft tissues and a return to normal life activities. There are many factors that can contribute to recovery time, but typically patients can return to normal life activities within 3 to 6 months.

Short-term Recovery

Short-term hip replacement recovery involves the early stages of recovery, such as the ability to get out of the hospital bed and be discharged from the hospital. On days 1 or 2, most total hip replacement patients are given a walker to stabilize them. By the third day after the surgery, most patients can go home. Short-term recovery also involves getting off major pain killers and having a full night’s sleep without pills. Once a patient no longer needs walking aids and can walk around the house without pain–in addition to being able to walk two blocks around the house without pain or resting–all of these are considered signs of short-term recovery. The average short-term recovery time for a total hip replacement is 10 to 12 weeks.

Long-term Recovery

Long-term hip replacement recovery involves the complete healing of surgical wounds and internal soft tissues. When a patient can return to work and the activities of daily living, they are on the way to achieving the full term of recovery. Another indicator is when the patient finally feels normal again. The average long-term recovery for total hip replacement patients is approximately 6 months. According to Dr. Ian C. Clarke, medical researcher and founder of Peterson Tribology Laboratory for joint replacement at Loma Linda University, “Our surgeons consider that patients have ‘recovered’ when their current status has improved much beyond their arthritic pre-op pain level and dysfunction.”

There are a number of contributing factors that influence recovery time. Jo Fox, orthopedic nurse of over fifty years and Lead Administrator of the BoneSmart.org hip replacement forum, says that a positive attitude is everything. Patients should be prepared for diligent work, some pain and an expectation that the future is going to be bright. Having access to information about hip replacement surgery and a strong support network is also important to recovery.

Adequate preparation for the recovery period after surgery will increase the chances of a smoother, quicker recovery. Prepare for recovery from home by removing loose rugs and floor coverings, de-cluttering walkways and stairs, and removing other items that the patient may trip on. Organize medical supplies and aids prior to surgery. If you plan to have someone assist you when you return home, it is better to make arrangements ahead of time.

Generally speaking, hip replacement patients do recover sooner than knee replacement patients, for example. It should be noted however, that recovery time for a total hip replacement can differ vastly from patient to patient. Some patients may recover in 6 to 8 months; while others may require a longer recovery time.

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