Joint replacement surgery educational resources - Fairview Health Services
 
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Educational resources
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Prevent problems and prepare for recovery
Every major surgery has risks, but knee and hip replacements are safer than most. Learn more about your joints and take advantage of these resources to help prevent problems and prepare for recovery.

Why joints hurt and how we fix them

How joints work
The ends of the bones in your joint are covered with cartilage, a smooth, tough tissue that allows your joint to move easily. The cartilage also acts as a cushion to protect the bones. Muscles and ligaments surround your joint and keep it stable as it moves.

What causes joint pain?
If the surface of your joint is hurt or worn down, the joint does not move smoothly and it hurts to move it. You may have trouble putting weight on that leg, causing you to limp. A painful joint may be stiff or swollen, which makes it difficult or clumsy to move.

What causes the kind of pain that leads to replacement surgery? It’s often a disease called arthritis, or osteoarthritis. The cartilage wears away from the bones, and the joint loses its cushion. The surface of the bones becomes rough. These rough edges may rub against each other, bone on bone, causing pain.

As the pain gets worse, you may try to stop using the painful joint. And as you use it less, the joint loses its flexibility and strength. Even on days when the pain isn’t bad, you may have trouble walking, climbing stairs and getting in and out of a chair.

What happens in joint replacement surgery?
During a joint replacement, doctors remove damaged cartilage and bone from your joint and replace these with new parts made of metal, strong plastic or other material. These parts fit together to create a new joint with smooth surfaces, so the joint can move in a more natural, comfortable motion. The new joint is called an implant, artificial joint or prosthesis.

Surgery usually lasts about two hours. First the surgeon removes the diseased bone and cartilage, and then they prepare the remaining bone for the implant. Once the surgeon fits the implant into the bone, the surgeon closes the skin with staples or stitches. If your knee is damaged in only one area, your surgeon may suggest a partial knee replacement. In that case, the surgeon will only replace the most damaged parts. With a partial knee replacement, you may have less pain and be able to go home sooner. Your doctor will decide which type of surgery is best for you.
Hip replacement resources

Read your guidebook for total hip replacement

The most common complications from total hip replacement are infection, blood clots, pneumonia and dislocation of the tip. Here are some tips for preventing problems from the surgery:
  • Follow all movement precautions for your healing hip.
  • Follow your surgeon’s directions for bathing and showering.
  • Do ankle pumps while you are in bed. Do at least 10 with both feet every hour.
  • Walk often. Once you return home, never sit or lie down for more than two hours at a time, even while watching TV, unless sleeping through the night.
  • Do your exercises twice a day until told otherwise by your surgeon or physical therapist.
  • Know what problems to watch for and when to call your doctor.

Knee replacement resources:

Read your guidebook for knee replacement surgery

The most common problems with knee replacement are infections, blood clots, knee stiffness which may require more surgery, pneumonia and loosening of the joint. Here are some ways to prevent these complications:
  • Follow your surgeon’s directions for bathing and showering.
  • Use your incentive breathing device every hour that you are awake.
  • Do ankle pumps while you are in bed. Do at least 10 with both feet every hour.
  • Walk often. Once you return home, never sit or lie down for more than two hours at a time, even while watching TV, unless sleeping through the night.
  • Do your exercises twice a day until told otherwise by your surgeon or physical therapist.
  • Know what problems to watch for and when to call your doctor.

Start your strength-building exercises now, before surgery.

You have likely become less active because of the pain and stiffness in your joint. When muscles are not used, they become weak and less flexible. After surgery, the joint problem will be fixed, but your muscles will still be weak and tight. To make them stronger, you will follow a regular exercise program.

Most of these exercises can be done lying down, face up. Your bed is a good place—not the floor. Exercise your sore leg every day as shown. This way, your exercises should be easier to do after surgery.

For hip replacement:
  • Ankle pumps
  • Thigh presses
  • Buttocks squeezes
  • Hamstring squeezes
  • Lying kicks
  • Sitting kicks

For knee replacement:
  • Straight leg lifts
  • Ankle pumps
  • Thigh presses
  • Buttocks squeezes
  • Hamstring squeezes
  • Lying kicks
  • Sitting kicks

View images of these exercises.

Additional resources
Apply for a disability parking certificate

Write a health care directive
A health care directive, or advance directive, is a written, legal document. It states what medical care you would want if you could not speak for yourself. It tells your family and care team about your wishes for treatment, such as whether you would want to be on a life-support machine. Bring a copy of your health care directive with you to the hospital—it will become a part of your files. If you don’t have a health care directive, please use to the link above to print and complete the form.
 
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