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Preparing for Joint Replacement Surgery

Class Helps Patients Know What To Expect

We find that those who come to the joint replacement class are better prepared to participate in their recovery both in the hospital and at home."Always be prepared" is a popular motto, but it is critically important when having an elective surgery-especially a surgery like  hip replacement or knee replacement.

"These are big surgeries that impact mobility and people can get very overwhelmed," says Ann Marie Grillo, RN, unit-based educator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who runs a special class for patients about to undergo joint replacement surgery. "There are definitely things people can do to  prepare beforehand that can help their recovery afterwards."

Grillo suggests patients stay active and lose weight if needed prior to their operation. She points out that being overweight can impact your recovery and the lifespan of a new joint.

Quitting smoking can also help. "Smoking is not good for rehabilitation and wound healing," she says. As difficult as it can be, she suggests you speak to your doctor about medications that may help you kick the habit.

Also, prepare your home for your homecoming. "Some activities will be more difficult for a while, so remove loose throw rugs, electrical cords and anything else from areas where you will walk," she suggests, noting that cleaning, shopping and cooking will be difficult the first 1-2 weeks you are home. "You may want to prepare meals in advance and freeze them, keeping them within easy reach."

You'll also want to make sure you have someone available to get you to and from appointments, as you won't be able to drive for at least four weeks.

These are the kinds of tips given out in the one-time, two-hour class that Grillo helps teach along with a case manager and physical therapist. BIDMC patients can take the class free of charge . Although there is no data yet available to show that patients who attend the class experience better outcomes, "the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," she says.

Patients also learn what they can  do post-surgery to make their recovery more rapid.

"It is a lot of work for the patient," she says. "Even though you may be tired, you have to do your exercises afterwards so you get better. We find that those who come to the class are better prepared to participate in their recovery both in the hospital and at home."

Patients begin walking -- with a walker -- the day after their operation. Some go straight home to do their rehab while others go to a facility. "The first few weeks after the surgery are the most important if you want to get most range of motion," she says.

It generally takes eight to 12 weeks to fully recover, she notes.

Most patients undergoing joint replacements have been suffering with arthritis pain for a long time. They are often surprised that their arthritis pain is gone immediately after the operation, Grillo says.

One thing she advises patients before their surgery is not to seek out other patients who have had the operation to get their opinions. "Everybody wants to tell you their story," she says. "You hear all the horror stories and get conflicting opinions. This can be nerve-racking."

She says they will get the straight truth by attending the class. "And they will get my number and they can call me with any questions," she says.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted March 2011

Contact Information

Joint Replacement and Reconstruction
Carl J. Shapiro Department of Orthopaedics
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215