“Doctor, where will I go after surgery?”
This is one of the most common questions asked by those planning for a hip or knee replacement surgery. The thought of returning home and managing things yourself can be a source of anxiety for you. You may have concerns about getting around in your home, preparing meals and bathing. Each of these concerns are valid, but in many cases people with hip and knee arthritis have struggled and compensated for their painful joints for so long that they may find themselves getting around significantly better very shortly after surgery. In the past, many people went directly from the hospital to an inpatient rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility after hip or knee replacement surgery. Interestingly, there are no studies that show these types of facilities actually lead to better outcomes.
In reality, the overwhelming majority of people are healthy and safe enough to go directly home rather quickly after hip or knee replacement surgery. Using different medications (many of which are not narcotics) to alleviate pain, also known as “multimodal pain management,” the pain is attacked from multiple directions. Early physical therapy and exercise also help with becoming more functional and independent rapidly after surgery.
From a recovery standpoint, people who go directly home after surgery instead of a rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility often achieve a faster recovery (a bit shocking, but true)! Additionally, there are lower risks of adverse events, such as infection, wound healing problems and readmission to the hospital if people go home, instead of to a rehabilitation center, after their hospital stay. It may be appropriate for a small percentage of patients to go to a rehabilitation center for safety concerns.
What does this mean for me and my surgery?
Research shows that the overwhelming majority of patients are able to safely return home after hip or knee replacement surgery. It is very important to discuss your home environment with your doctor and care team to formulate your optimal postoperative plan before you have surgery. Preparing your home before surgery for when you return after your surgery is a key step to success. This could include preparing meals in advance, placing supplies in easily accessible areas and removing clutter that could cause you to trip and fall. Most people can be confident that they will be able to return home after surgery and actually have a lower risk of complications by going directly home.
This article has been written and peer reviewed by the AAHKS Patient and Public Relations Committee and the AAHKS Evidence Based Medicine Committee. Links to these pages or content used from the articles must be given proper citation to the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.