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After Surgery

After surgery, you will go to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), where you will be closely monitored for one to two hours.

While you are recovering, your physician will talk with your family. During your time in the recovery room, we will establish pain control, monitor your vital signs and may take an x-ray of your new joint. You may have an oxygen tube in your nose when you wake up, and you will still have the IV line.  

After your stay in the PACU, you will be taken to your private room on the Total Joint Unit. Family members or friends may visit. During this time, you will be receiving pain medication through your IV and/or a pain pump. As soon as possible, start your exercises. You will be allowed a clear liquid diet initially. If you tolerate this diet well, you may advance to more solid foods for supper.

You may have a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump. This pump delivers a dose of pain medication when you press the button.  The physical therapist and case manager may visit you later in the day. If you had a total knee replacement you may be placed on a Continuous Passive Motion (CPM) machine to start exercising your leg.

Post Surgery to Discharge
Recovery is different for every person. Posted in your room are goals to mark your progress and to help you and your family know what to expect. 

The nursing staff will orient you to the unit. Please don't hesitate to ask questions or use your call bell to get help. We are here for you!  Your registered nurse and case manager will assess your needs on an ongoing basis and adjust your care accordingly.

Medication will be available to help control your pain. This is especially helpful when taken about 30 to 45 minutes before your physical therapy. The physical therapist will work with you every day. Please refer to the handout describing your exercises.

Your case manager will talk to you and keep you informed about your progress in order to arrange appropriate discharge. Expect to be discharged two to three days after surgery. Most patients go directly home. If you need to stay at a rehabilitation facility, we can make arrangements for you.

The Night Following Surgery
You will be encouraged to sit up on the side of the bed. Your nurse or physical therapist will help you.

Please do not attempt to walk or sit in a chair without help from the nursing staff or physical therapist! This is very important.

How to Minimize Complications
Deep Vein Thromboses (DVTs) are blood clots that can form in your legs. Exercise and ambulation are the most important things you can do to help minimize the chance of getting DVTs. Other ways are with medications (blood thinners such as Coumadin and Lovenox) and compression devices placed on your legs.

Leg and ankle swelling can be reduced by elevating the operative leg, avoiding sitting for more than 30 to 45 minutes at a time and performing your ankle exercises.

The risk of pneumonia can be minimized by doing breathing exercise with your incentive spirometer.

Infection can be reduced by keeping the dressing clean and dry. Call your doctor if you have a fever greater than 101º or if the incision becomes swollen, red, or exhibits changes in the color, amount or odor of the drainage.

If you had a total hip replacement, dislocation of the new joint can be minimized by following specific hip precautions. Your physical therapist will instruct you with regards to hip precautions. Also, refer to the “exercise guide” handout.