Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs About Joint Replacement Surgery

Patients preparing for joint replacement surgery often have many questions. Choose from the list below to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

What is total joint replacement?

When a joint has worn to the point it no longer does its job, an artificial joint, or prosthesis, made of metal, ceramics, and plastics can take its place. Total joint replacement surgery re-creates the normal function of the joint — relieving discomfort and significantly increasing activity and mobility.

What is anterior approach to hip replacement?

The anterior approach to hip replacement isa minimally invasive hip replacement procedure that dramatically shortens hospitalization and rehabilitation times. Methodist Dallas Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in the country to offer the anterior approach to hip replacement, and it is among the few hospitals in North Texas to offer the procedure. Learn more about the advantages of the anterior approach to hip replacement surgery.

Is joint replacement surgery safe?

Joint replacement is a safe and common procedure. Annually, nearly 150,000 people have hips replaced and nearly 250,000 have knees replaced with positive results. Any surgical procedure involves risk. Hospital staff will review these risks with you and explain how your postsurgical program can reduce risk and aid in a more rapid recovery.

What is the Methodist Joint Academy?

The Methodist Joint Academy helps prepare joint replacement patients – knee joint replacement, hip joint replacement, or shoulder joint replacement – to achieve the best possible surgical outcome, a speedy recovery, and a faster return to normal daily activity.

What are the major risks of joint replacement surgery?

Most surgeries go well without complications. Though the chances are one percent or less, infection and blood clots are serious concerns. To avoid these complications, you will receive antibiotics and blood thinners. Methodist Health System follows special precautions throughout our hospital facilities to reduce the risk of infections.

How long will a replacement joint last?

The approximate life span of a replacement knee or hip is 10 to 15 years. However, there is no guarantee, and some may not last that long. A revision or second replacement may be necessary.

What are the major risks of joint replacement surgery?

Most surgeries go well without complications. Though the chances are one percent or less, infection and blood clots are serious concerns. To avoid these complications, you will receive antibiotics and blood thinners. Methodist Health System follows special precautions throughout our hospital facilities to reduce the risk of infections.

Is there an age limit for this type of surgery?

There is no age limit provided you are in reasonable health and have the desire to continue living an active life.

Which tests will I need before surgery?

All patients are required to have routine blood work and urinalysis within 14 days of surgery, and your surgeon must perform a physical examination within 30 days of surgery. Patients over age 50 and those with cardiac or respiratory history must also have an EKG and chest x-ray within days of surgery. Most preadmission testing can be performed at the hospital where you will have your surgery.

Will I need to donate blood before surgery?

Blood donation before surgery is not essential, but if you wish you may do so as long as you meet certain criteria. Your own blood can also be collected during surgery and processed using special equipment then given back to you as needed. A friend or relative with the same blood type may donate blood ahead of time on your behalf, and it will be checked for compatibility with yours. You can also receive blood from the community blood bank if necessary. The blood bank follows universal guidelines in screening blood and blood products to ensure safety.

Should I start or stop any medications?

Ask your orthopedic surgeon which over-the-counter drugs, prescription medications, and vitamin and herbal supplements you may and should not take before surgery. Generally, you can take most medications up until the day of surgery. Ask if you should take your heart and blood pressure medications with a sip of water on the day of surgery. However, do not take Plavix, anti-inflammatory medications containing aspirin, or blood thinners within two weeks of surgery unless permitted by your physician. Most herbal supplements should also be stopped.

What are my options for anesthesia?

You may have a general anesthetic, which most people call being "put to sleep." Some patients prefer a spinal or epidural anesthetic, which numbs your legs. In some cases a combination of both can be used. You may discuss these options with your anesthesiologist or surgeon.

How long will the surgery take?

Depending upon the difficulty of your case, surgery can take anywhere from one to three hours, with an additional one to three hours in the recovery room.

Will the surgeon talk with my family immediately after surgery is completed?

Whenever possible, the surgeon or one of his assisting surgeons will meet with family members immediately after surgery. If for any reason this is not possible, you may contact the doctor's office to arrange a time to discuss how your surgery went.

Will I be in much pain after surgery?

Most patients experience mild to moderate discomfort in the days and weeks following joint replacement. However, after years of living with joint pain, for most it is a welcome relief. As with any surgery, individual patient results and experiences vary. You will have pain medication available to take as needed. Make sure to talk with your doctor before surgery about your pain management options.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most patients are hospitalized for about three days, including the day of surgery. Most are able to return home immediately following their hospital stay, but treatment at a rehabilitation center or subacute facility may be appropriate if you require additional care. You should contact your health insurance provider to find out exactly what is covered and obtain these provisions in writing.

What are my financial responsibilities?

Talk with your health insurance provider to determine your coverage. You may be asked to provide a co-payment prior to surgery. In addition to your portion of the hospital bill, you may receive separate bills from multiple physicians including surgeons, anesthesiologists, pathologists, radiologists, and primary care and specialty care physicians.

Will I need someone to stay full time with me when I go home?

It is best for someone to be with you the first 24 to 72 hours after discharge. If you live alone and a friend or relative offers to stay with you, take him or her up on the offer! If you cannot arrange a full-time helper, perhaps a friend or neighbor can call daily to check on your progress. Home care can also be arranged through your case manager if you meet home health care criteria and your doctor orders it.

Will I need pain medicine after I'm discharged?

Most patients do benefit from a short-term course of pain medication. Expect to take some kind of pain medication for several weeks after discharge — especially at night and before therapy sessions. Your surgeon will prescribe these medications.

How long will I need to use my walker or crutches?

Generally, patients use an assistive device such as a walker or crutches the first few weeks following surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist will give you a recovery plan.

When can I go up and down stairs?

Many patients can climb stairs before leaving the hospital.

When can I go outside?

You may go outside at any time. Start with short trips at first, such as physical therapy or church, and increase the number and duration of outside activities as you feel more comfortable.

When can I drive?

Most patients must wait for six weeks before driving. However, your surgeon may allow you to drive a little earlier than that if you can do so safely. The type of surgery, side of surgery (left leg versus right leg), and your overall general condition will play a part in that decision. Do not drive until your surgeon gives approval.

When can I return to work?

Most patients wait at least six weeks before returning to work. Some return earlier if they can do so safely. Discuss your situation with your surgeon during a follow-up visit.

How often will I need to see my surgeon?

You will need to schedule your first postoperative visit one to three weeks after discharge. The frequency of additional visits will depend upon your progress. Many patients are seen at six weeks, 12 weeks, and then yearly.

When can I resume sports activities?

You may be able to try swimming, distance walking, hiking, bicycle riding, golfing, and other low-impact activities after a few weeks of rehabilitation and recovery. Your restrictions may vary depending on the type of surgery you have, so discuss your activity level and abilities with your surgeon.

When will I be able to engage in sexual activities after surgery?

In most cases, you may resume sexual activity when you feel comfortable enough to do so. Make sure to heed any position restrictions recommended by your caregivers. In general, most patients resume normal sexual activities within four to six weeks after surgery.