joint replacement

My husband had knee replacement surgery this week. He already has two “bionic hips,” as he likes to call them, so he had a pretty good idea of what to expect. However, those surgeries happened long before I came on the scene—in fact during the first wife’s tenure—so I was completely in the dark about the whole thing. But not anymore!

For those of you with a joint replacement in your spouse’s future, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up in the past few days (I know I have plenty more to learn in the next five and a half weeks!):

  • Surgery time. Have your spouse request a surgery time that’s as early in the morning as possible because they won’t be able to eat or drink past midnight. By 1:30 pm, when Don had his surgery, he was both nervous and ravenous. Also the later the patient comes out of recovery and gets into a room, the less likely they are to get any physical therapy that day, which means they may be stuck in the hospital an extra night.
  • Anesthesia. In many cases, spinal anesthesia that blocks all sensation to the lower half of the patient’s body is used instead of general anesthesia. But don’t worry; that doesn’t mean they’re awake and aware on the operating table. The spinal anesthesia is used in conjunction with sedatives to allow your partner to snooze right through the scary part. Expect the numbness from the anesthesia to last for several hours and instability on their feet possibly up to the next day. After Don’s surgery, when the nurse asked him to move his toes, he was convinced he was wiggling them, but none of those little piggies were going anywhere!
  • Pain meds. After surgery, make sure your husband or wife stays ahead of their pain by taking pain medication at the intervals prescribed. If they wait until they experience pain to take medication, it could take much longer—and even a higher dosage—to get that pain under control. Another reason to take those happy pills when the nurse offers them is they are always ready—and able—to participate in therapy. The first day Don thought he’d tough it out for a few extra hours. He only made that mistake once!
  • Therapy. Don’t wait for therapy sessions to work that new and improved joint. As soon as your partner is given the green light to move on their own (generally with your or the nurse’s supervision), make sure they get out of bed as much as possible. Sit in a chair to practice bending the knee (for knee replacements) and walk down the hospital hallways (with the aid of a walker) to start putting increasing amounts of weight on the replacement joint. It may seem counterintuitive but the nurse explained to me that the more Don uses his knee, the less it will hurt. (Think stiffness and inflammation with lack of use.)

NOTE: All advice is based on the writer’s personal experience. Information could vary based on the joint replaced, hospital performing the surgery, specific doctor’s or therapist’s advice, etc.  

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