Aftercare for joint replacement vital for seniors

Whether it’s shoulder, knee or hip joint replacement, aftercare is vitally important. Early motion after joint replacement helps achieve the best possible function. And motion is typically started 48 hours post surgery.

According to University of Washington, arthritic joints are stiff. One of the major goals of total joint replacement surgery is to relieve much of this stiffness. However, following surgery, scar tissue will tend to recur and limit movement unless motion is started immediately. This early motion is facilitated by the complete surgical release of the tight tissues so that after surgery the patient has only to maintain the range of motion achieved at the operation.

All new joint patients need to have a regular exercise program to maintain their fitness and the health of the muscles around their joints. With both their orthopedic and primary care physicians’ permission, they should be on a regular exercise program 3 to 4 times per week lasting 20 to 30 minutes.

General Tips from Texas Health Resources

  • Patients should take antibiotics one hour before having dental work or other invasive procedures for their lifetime. Patients are recommended to take antibiotics before, during, and immediately after any elective procedures in order to prevent infection of the replaced joint
  • Although the risks are very low for postoperative infections, it is important to realize that the risk remains. A prosthetic join could possibly attract the bacteria from an infection located in another part of the patient’s body. A fever is reason to call the doctor.
  • Occasionally, antibiotics may be needed. Superficial scratches may be treated with topical antibiotic ointment. Patients should notify their doctor if the area becomes painful or reddened.
  • Patients are given an implant card by their surgeon that states they had a joint replacement. They should carry the card with them, as they may set off security alarms at airports, malls, etc. Also when traveling, patients should stop and change positions hourly to prevent the joint from tightening.
  • Patients should visit their surgeon yearly unless otherwise recommended. Routine initial, mid-term and long-term follow up is a valuable part of joint replacement care.

According to the Mayo Clinic, patients usually require some assistance with self-care, activities of daily living, shopping and driving for approximately six weeks after surgery. Patients usually go home after this surgery, especially if there are people at home who can provide the necessary assistance, or if such assistance can be arranged through an agency. In the absence of home support, a convalescent facility may provide a safe environment for recovery.

Recovery of comfort and function after joint replacement continues for many months after the surgery. Improvement in some activities may be evident as early as six weeks. With persistent effort, patients make progress for as long as a year after surgery.

Future activities are generally limited to those that do not risk injuring the replaced joint. Sports that involve running or contact are avoided, in favor of leisure sports, such as golf, and swimming.

Swimming is the ideal form of exercise, since the sport improves muscle strength and endurance without exerting any pressure or stress on the replaced joint.

See you at the pool!


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