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Home Care Tips

The following tips may help you during your recovery after joint replacement.

Elevate Your Leg
Whenever you are not walking or exercising, elevate your affected limb by lying on a bed or couch and propping your ankles on two or three pillows to raise them above your heart. This will reduce swelling, which relieves pain and speeds healing. It is best to elevate your leg at least two hours each day. More elevation may be needed during the day if swelling continues.

Take Care of Your Incision
Keep your incision dry. There should not be an increase in drainage after you leave the hospital. The skin edges may appear red or irritated because of the staples. Once the staples are removed, the redness will gradually decrease. Redness that spreads beyond the staple line should be reported to your surgeon.

Call Your Doctor
The following conditions may require immediate attention:

  • Increased pain
  • Swelling not reduced by elevation
  • Incision drainage
  • Wound opening
  • Bright red blood
  • Calf or groin pain that is not lessened by elevation
  • Fever higher than 101.5˚

Take Your Medicine
Take your pain medication as directed on the label. It may help if you take your pain medication 1/2 hour before exercising and 1/2 hour prior to bedtime. If you feel you need to refill your pain medication, please call your pharmacy and the pharmacist will contact your doctor's office. Check with your doctor before you begin substituting prescription medications with over-the-counter medications.

Continue to take any other regular prescription medications, such as medicine for high blood pressure or heart problems, unless directed by your doctor. Write down any questions you may have and bring them with you the next time you visit your doctor.

Ice for Pain or Discomfort
If you are having moderate pain and discomfort, ice may be applied three to four times a day, for no longer than 20 minutes each time. Place a towel around the ice bag before applying to your skin. This can be most effective when done right after exercising or before going to bed.

Sleep in the Correct Position
Knee replacement patients should place a pillow lengthwise under the entire leg when sleeping. Do NOT put the pillow under your knee only. When sleeping on your side, put a pillow or two between your legs to cushion your knees.

Hip replacement patients may sleep on their backs or on the side of the joint replacement. While sleeping on your back, you may find that a small pillow roll placed under your knees will make you more comfortable. While sleeping on your operative side, you must keep your knees apart by using pillows.

Don't Wear

  • Anything tight, such as tight socks, slacks, stockings or shoes
  • Anything that leaves an indention in your skin
  • Any stocking that has an elastic band around the top

Do Wear
You may be instructed by your surgeon to wear support hose for up to six weeks.

Don't Drive
Don't drive while taking pain medication other than Tylenol. Your doctor will let you know when it's okay to drive again, usually three weeks after surgery.

Don't Take Baths or Showers
To avoid getting your incision wet, don't take a bath or shower until the staples have been removed (usually two weeks after surgery). Check with your physician to see if it is okay to get the incision wet. When you do bathe, do not use a wash cloth to wash your incision. Use an antibacterial soap and with your fingers, gently wash the incision in an up-and-down motion rather than from side to side. Gently pat the incision dry after washing.


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