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5 Ways To Prepare For Joint Replacement Surgery

Posted on March 18, 2024 by Elizabeth Swanson

Getting a joint replacement can be a life-changing surgery: maybe you’ll be able to run around after your grandchildren, return to a beloved sport or just complete daily tasks without pain. But the way to get the most out of your joint replacement? Prepare ahead of time. 

“I tell people getting joint replacement surgery is like training for a marathon,” says Robb Weir, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Henry Ford Health. “You wouldn’t run a marathon without training beforehand and you shouldn’t go into joint replacement surgery without getting ready, either. It’s a concept called ‘prehabilitation’ – it gets people equipped for surgery so their recovery will be that much smoother.”  

Here, Dr. Weir shares five ways to prepare for joint replacement surgery. 

1. Eat well and exercise.

Stop smoking, start an exercise routine and eat a balanced diet that’s high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.  

“Try to be as healthy as you can be,” says Dr. Weir. “Some patients are already very active in their daily lives, but others haven’t walked in a couple of months. Just do your best. The stronger and healthier you are before surgery, the more optimal your recovery will be.”  

2. Visit your primary care doctor.

Before surgery, make an appointment with your primary care doctor to ensure any underlying medical issues are well managed (whether that’s high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, etc.). You’ll also complete presurgical bloodwork to ensure you’re in the clear for surgery.  

There may be certain medications you need to stop taking, as well. Your doctor can advise you on when to stop and resume them. Blood thinners to prevent heart attack and stroke, for example, or immune-suppressing medications for rheumatoid arthritis, can increase the risk of complications during or after surgery. Some homeopathic medications can also interfere with blood thinning.  

“Seeing your primary care doctor is important because they know your medical history best,” says Dr. Weir.  

3. Arrange for a friend or family member to be your caregiver.

If you live by yourself and you are independent, you may choose to recover from surgery by yourself. But many people arrange to have family members or friends stay with them for a week or two after surgery to help with daily tasks.  

“They can grocery shop, prepare meals, change bandages, even just help you get out of bed,” says Dr. Weir. “And sometimes it’s just comforting to know someone is there to support you.” 

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4. Prepare your house.

If your bedroom is upstairs, consider setting up a sleeping area on the first floor so you won’t have to trek up and down the stairs post-surgery. Also: look for uneven surfaces, loose cords or rugs—anything in the house that can be a tripping hazard. You want your home to be as easy to move around in as possible.  

5. Take a joint replacement class.

Knowing what to expect during and after surgery—including the rehabilitation process—can take unknowns out of the picture and leave you as prepared to succeed as possible.  

“At Henry Ford, we host a free and mandatory joint replacement class,” says Dr. Weir. “It really helps to explain the procedure, how to prepare yourself and your home, and what to expect on the day of surgery. It also lays out a recovery plan that most patients will follow, which commonly includes visiting home nurses and physical therapists.  

“We’ll go over signs and symptoms of problems post-surgery, which your caregiver should also know. In fact, it’s recommended they take the class as well. It is a great resource for those who are undergoing a joint replacement.” 

Reviewed by Robb Weir, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Plymouth and Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. 

Categories : MoveWell

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