doctor examining knee

Preparing for Hip / Knee Replacement Surgery Part 1: The Patient

Once you have exhausted symptomatic treatment for your arthritic hip or knee, and your symptoms of increasing pain and decreasing function have led you to have joint replacement surgery, there is work to do for you and your surgeon.

From the patient perspective, there are some keys to maximizing your outcome. First, take an honest look at your overall health regarding your weight and fitness level. In a perfect world, we would all be at our ideal body weight. However, 70% of the US population is overweight and approximately 30% are obese by accepted definitions. Therefore, dropping some weight helps in a variety of ways: it decreases your risk of operative and post-operative complications and facilitates your recovery.

Next, arrange for your spouse, partner, friend, relative, neighbor to help you as a coach or guide to assist you with the pre-op preparations and recovery. Having another set of ears at appointments and someone to stay with you for several days after surgery is extremely valuable. This person will also assist with rides to appointments and therapy.

After working on your health and finding a coach, preparing your home for recovery is important. Put away throw rugs and other items that could lead to falls, make sure you have food items that are easy to prepare, stock up on frozen food which can easily be microwaved. Arrange for help with pets for at least the first few days.

Four to six weeks before your surgery you will have a "prehab" appointment with a physical therapist to review how to navigate stairs with a cane, proper use of a walker (which will be used for a week or 2 after surgery) and get started on postoperative exercises before surgery to help with strength and mobility. A week before surgery, you will stop any anti-inflammatory medications you are taking for your arthritic joint. Five days before surgery, you will shower with special antibacterial soap to decrease the bacteria on your skin. Three days before surgery you will increase your water consumption to make sure you are well hydrated before your surgery.

By taking these steps to improve your health and fitness levels you are partnering with your care team to improve your outcome and make the most of your joint replacement surgery.