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24 Hours Before Joint Replacement Surgery: How to Prepare

What should you be doing the day before a joint replacement?

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In the 24 hours before joint replacement surgery, it’s natural to have nerves. Anxiety about joint replacement is normal, even though it’s a very common surgery with a low rate of complications. One of the ways to reduce your anxiety is by “getting your ducks in a row” before the surgery, so to speak.

You know your life will temporarily be different and even difficult as you recover and heal from the surgery. Planning the logistics for your recovery may help reduce any obstacles after the surgery. In turn, this might improve your confidence.

Following Instructions Before Joint Replacement

“Within 24 hours prior to orthopedic surgery, you should have received a phone call from your hospital,” says Ann Marie Moynihan, RN, director of nursing at NYU Langone Health. On this phone call, the surgeon’s office might tell you “what to expect when you arrive, what documents to bring, and who should accompany you to the hospital.”

You might currently be taking medicines for other conditions. The surgical team will tell you which ones you can continue, and which ones you may need to temporarily discontinue.

You will also learn strict guidelines for when you should stop eating and drinking. Your doctor will likely encourage you to drink a lot of water and other clear liquids in the days leading up to that point, according to William Macaulay, MD, orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Health.

Preparing Your Home

When you come home from the surgery, your mobility will be limited. You will also be more vulnerable to trips, falls, and other accidents. For this reason, it’s smart to prepare your home before joint replacement surgery.

“We do recommend that you remove any slip rugs from the house,” says Moynihan. “You really want to take a moment to look at the space and ensure that it's free of clutter to help you in your healing process.”

Additionally, if you have pets in your home, you might want to consider finding a pet sitter, such as a loved one or neighbor. First of all, it may be challenging for you to provide the necessary care for a pet while you’re healing, especially if you have a large dog that requires long walks. Second, your pet—such as a cat who constantly circles your feet—may provide a tripping hazard.

Other tips for preparing your home include preparing food that you can easily reheat, moving your sleeping space to the first floor, and moving important items (like dishes or medicine bottles) to waist-level or within arm’s reach.

Know Your Surgery Schedule

You can plan more effectively if you know how long to anticipate staying in the hospital. This may be especially important if you are hiring babysitters or pet sitters while you’re away.

“These days, our average length of stay for hip replacement is less than two days now, which means that a good percentage of our patients are going home on the day of surgery,” says Dr. Macaulay. “For knee replacements, it's just slightly longer because of slightly increased pain that they might need to have managed, but that length of stay is also approaching two days.”

That being said, you should talk to your surgeon about what to expect for your hospital stay. Your personal health factors may influence how long your hospital stay may be, and different surgeons may have different approaches.

“If you have any questions about how to best prepare for your hip or knee replacement surgery, I would suggest you address that directly to your surgeon and their team,” says Dr. Macaulay.