Total Hip Replacement Surgery-Home Care
Home Care Instructions
This handout will review the care you need
to follow once you are home. If you have
any questions or concerns, please ask your
nurse or doctor. Our staff is here to help
you. If you have questions after you are at
home, please call the numbers at the end of
The total recovery time after a total hip
replacement varies from person to person.
For most people, recovery is a 6-8 week
process. Surgery can cause you to fell weak
and tired. Common sense will tell you when
you are doing too much. On the other hand,
too little activity can delay the return of your
strength and stamina. Follow these
guidelines to help keep your recovery
process on track.
ξ Follow the home exercise program
your physical therapist (PT) has
ξ The correct use of your crutches or
walker will prevent injury to your
hip. You may need to use a cane
until you can walk without a limp.
By 6-8 weeks most patients no
longer need to use a cane, walker, or
ξ Walking is good for you. Set a time
to walk, at least twice each day. Let
pain be your guide. As you get
stronger, increase the distance you
walk each day.
ξ Keep doing your exercises 3 times a
day, for 3 months. Then switch to a
maintenance program doing the same
exercises 3 times a week for at least
ξ To prevent falls, use caution when
getting up too quickly.
ξ Your surgeon will determine if you
need to follow any precautions after
your hip replacement.
Care for you Incision
Proper care of your incision helps to prevent
ξ Keep your incision clean and dry.
Use extra layers of plastic wrap for
ξ You may leave your incision open to
air when it is dry.
ξ Do not wash directly on the
incision. Wash around the incision
gently with soap and water and allow
it to air dry.
ξ Do not use any creams, lotions,
ointments or alcohol near or on the
ξ Check your incision daily for any
ξ Some redness and swelling is
ξ A small amount of clear or slightly
blood tinged drainage from your
incision is normal.
ξ If you have a brace, you will also be
given brace care instructions.
ξ You will be given instructions about
when your dressing should be
Check for Signs and Symptoms of
ξ A persistent fever of 101.0°F for 24
ξ Increase in swelling.
ξ Increase in redness around the site.
ξ Increase in drainage from site.
A mild fever is common after joint
replacement surgery. A fever does not
always mean infection. The fever should
slowly decrease in time.
Bruising and Swelling
As you become more active, you may notice
some swelling and bruising in your leg or
foot. There are some things you can do to
prevent or decrease this swelling.
ξ Raise your legs between periods of
walking. Lie flat on your back and
raise the operative leg above the
level of your heart.
ξ Keep doing your ankle pumps and
quad sets. See PT exercise sheet.
ξ If swelling occurs after you exercise,
use the elevation and ice therapy
method to the site.
Elevation and Ice Therapy Method
Elevate swollen leg above the level of your
heart. Ice the area for 20 minutes as often as
needed. Do not put the ice directly on the
skin. Use a ready-made ice pack or put ice
in a plastic bag and wrap in a towel before
you use it.
You may need to use pain medicine at
home. Do not drive if taking narcotic pain
medicine. The pain medicine can cause you
to be unsteady on your feet, feel nauseated
and cause constipation. Some patients find
pain relief from methods other than pain
ξ Elevation and ice therapy
ξ Deep breathing exercises
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT or blood
Patients who have total joint replacement are
at a greater risk of getting a deep vein
thrombosis or blood clot. Symptoms of a
blood clot include severe leg swelling along
with pain, redness and/or tenderness in the
calf. Call the Orthopedic Clinic if you
have these symptoms.
A blood clot in your leg can break off and
travel to your lungs. This is called a
pulmonary embolism, and is rare.
Symptoms of a pulmonary embolism
include shortness of breath and chest pain.
If you have any of these symptoms, call
911 or visit the Emergency Department.
Driving and Travel
ξ Do not drive 2-6 weeks after surgery.
ξ Do not drive while taking narcotic
ξ You can request a temporary
disabled parking permit at your first
post-op appointment if needed.
ξ You may travel over two hours 6-8
weeks after your surgery.
ξ Stretching every hour will decrease
stiffness as you travel.
ξ Metal joint implants will trigger
metal detectors in airports.
ξ Please give yourself time to get
Future medical or Dental Treatment
Do not have routine dental work done for 3
months after your joint replacement. If
dental work must be done in cases of
infection or a dental emergency, please
notify the Orthopedic Clinic.
You will need to take a dose of antibiotics
before your dentist appointment to protect
your hip joint from infection. This is
recommended for life.
Always tell your doctor or dentist before:
ξ All dental care, including routine
When to Call the Doctor
ξ If you have an infection in other
places like your bladder, throat, or
lungs, these infections can “travel” to
the hip and cause problems. Call
both your primary medical doctor
and your joint replacement surgeon.
ξ Increased tingling or numbness in
your leg or foot.
ξ Increased pain, swelling or redness
in or around your incision site.
ξ An increase in the amount of
drainage, change in the color of
drainage, or any odor from your
incision. Be ready to describe what
the drainage looks, how it smells,
and how much there is.
ξ A new blister(s) near or on the
ξ A fever that lasts 24 hours above
ξ Sudden increase in pain or pain not
relieved by medicine.
ξ A sudden “popping” feeling in your
ξ If you cannot move your hip.
ξ Severe leg swelling, pain, redness
and/or tenderness in either calf.
If you have shortness of breath or chest
pain, go to the emergency room or call
Your first clinic visit should be 2-4 weeks
after surgery. This may have been
scheduled before surgery. If it wasn’t, we
will be help you schedule before you are
Pain Medicine Refills
If you need a refill on your pain medicine,
call the Orthopedic Clinic at
(608) 263-7540, Monday through Friday,
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and ask for the nurse.
Please call when you have a 2 to 3 day
supply left of your medicine. Do not wait
until you run out. Narcotic pain medicines
by law cannot be called in over the phone or
If you have questions or concerns, please
call the Orthopedic Clinic, Monday
throughout Friday between 8:00a.m. and
5:00p.m., at (608) 263-7540. After 5:00pm
and nights/weekends call (608) 262-0486.
If you live out of the area, call
1 (800) 323-8942. Ask the operator to page
the “orthopedic resident on call”. Leave
your name and phone number with area
code. The doctor will call you back.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4512