Recovering from Joint Replacement Surgery at Home

Proper home care after joint replacement may improve surgery outcomes.

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Recovery from joint replacement surgery doesn’t end when you leave the hospital. Your surgeon will provide you with detailed instructions for home care after joint replacement surgery. Following these instructions carefully may help reduce the risk of surgery complications and improve surgery outcomes.

Having Support

“It is important after orthopedic surgery that you have somebody at home to help you during that initial first 24 hours,” says Ann Marie Moynihan, RN, director of nursing at NYU Langone Health. “They can help guide you, and if you have any issues or concerns, they can communicate it forward, and also be that support person for you.”

Having someone who can help you is extremely beneficial, but it’s not required, according to William Macaulay, MD, orthopedic surgeon at NYU Langone Health. “We don't send people home unless we feel like they can manage all by themselves,” he says.

Preparing Your Home

Before you leave for your surgery, it’s helpful to get your home ready for a safe recovery process. After joint replacement surgery, you may be more vulnerable to trips, falls, or other accidents. The following things may help have a safer home after surgery:

  • Set up a place to sleep on the first floor to avoid going up or down stairs
  • Place essential items (medicine, water glasses, phones, chargers) around waist level to avoid difficult reaching
  • Have meals and easy foods available that are easy to heat up or prepare

Home Care After Joint Replacement Surgery

To reduce the risk of infection from your surgery, Moynihan recommends making sure any visitors to your home keep their distance and practice good hand hygiene. Additionally, keep a close eye on your dressing to catch symptoms of infection early.

“You would look for redness, any swelling, as well as checking your temperature, and then communicate that back to your surgeon's office,” says Moynihan.

Pain management is a large part of home care after joint replacement surgery. “We aid patients' recovery by providing them with two or three different pain medicines and analgesics, which work synergistically, usually trying to minimize the amount of narcotics that they require,” says Dr. Macaulay. In fact, he notes that an increasing number of patients are able to recover without any narcotics at all.

Finally, physical therapy or visiting home nurse may help aid recovery after you leave the hospital. The physical therapist may visit you at home and teach you exercises that you can do a few times a day. These exercises can help ease your new joint into safe movement. Learn more about resuming activity after joint replacement here.

“If you don't feel that you have enough information, I would suggest you address that directly to your surgeon and their team,” says Dr. Macaulay.