For appointments, call
404-778-7777

Total Hip Replacement FAQs

Hip Replacement

What is the recovery time for a total hip replacement?

Everyone heals from total hip replacement surgery at a different pace. In most cases, however, you will be restricted to using a walker or crutches for 1 month after your operation. You will then be allowed to advance to a cane outdoors and no support around the house for several weeks. You will gradually return to normal function without any assistive devices. This usually takes about 3 months but may take longer.

What is a dislocation of the hip?

A dislocation of the hip occurs when the femoral head (ball) comes out of the acetabulum (socket). While this risk is very small, typically less than 2%, you are given dislocation precautions to help avoid this happening.

What are the dislocation precautions for my hip (positions I should avoid)?

You should avoid flexing (bending) at the hip more than 90°. Avoid low chairs and furniture because they require too much bending at the hip in order to get up. If you must reach to the floor when seated, always reach between your legs, not to the outside. Use an elevated toilet seat to avoid excessive bending of the hip. If possible, use a chair that has arms. The arms provide leverage for you to push up to a standing position. When sitting, position your legs so that you can see your inner thigh, calf, and foot (not the outside).

How long do I need to follow my dislocation precautions after total hip replacement surgery?
Follow your precautions very carefully for the first 6 weeks. You should avoid extreme positions of hip flexion (bending) forever.
When can I discontinue using a raised toilet seat after total hip replacement surgery?

You may discontinue using a raised toilet seat between 6 and 10 weeks after your total hip replacement operation.

Can I sleep on my side after total hip replacement?

You may sleep on your operative side whenever you feel comfortable. You may sleep on your non-operative side at 4 weeks with a pillow between your knees.

When do my stitches come out after total hip replacement surgery?

Your stitches are absorbable and do not need to be removed. The steri-strips that have been applied can be kept in place until they fall off on their own. They will help keep the skin edges together. If they have not fallen off by 3 weeks, it is OK to peel them off.

How long do I need a bandage after total hip replacement surgery?

You need a bandage for approximately 1 week after total hip replacement surgery. This should be changed daily to a new dry, sterile gauze. If desired, you may continue to wear a bandage to protect the incision from irritation.

When can I shower (get incision wet) after total hip replacement surgery?

You may shower 3 days after your operation, if no drainage is present at the incision. Initially, try to keep the incision dry with a plastic wrap. If the incision gets wet, pat it dry.

When can I immerse my hip in water (e.g., bath, swimming pool, ocean, hot tub) after total hip replacement surgery?

You can immerse your hip in water after 2 weeks, if there is no drainage from the incision.

How long will I be on pain medication after total hip replacement surgery?

You will likely require some form of pain medication for about 3 months after total hip replacement surgery. Initially, you will be on a strong oral pain medication (such as a narcotic). Most people are able to wean off of their strong pain medication after 1 month and are able to switch to an over-the-counter pain medication (such as Tylenol or ibuprofen). If you are on Coumadin (warfarin), avoid taking any NSAIDs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Naprosyn) without first consulting your internist.

Will I go to rehabilitation or home after total hip replacement surgery?

It depends. Many people are able to go home after their total hip replacement operation. However, you may go to a rehabilitation hospital in order to gain the skills you need to safely return home. Many factors will be considered in this decision. These include availability of family or friends to assist with daily activities, home environment, safety considerations, post-operative functional status as evaluated by a physical therapist in the hospital, and overall evaluation by your hospital team.

Do I need physical therapy after total hip replacement surgery?

Yes! The physical therapist plays a very important role in your recovery after total hip replacement surgery. You will see a physical therapist soon after your operation and throughout your stay at the hospital. If you go home, you will likely have a therapist come to visit you (usually 2-3 times a week). Sometimes, you will be referred to an outpatient physical therapist. If you go to a rehabilitation hospital, you will receive therapy there. Your therapist will help you walk, regain motion, build strength, and reach your post-operative goals. Your therapist will keep your surgeon informed of your progress.

What exercises should I do after total hip replacement surgery?

You will be instructed by your physical therapist on appropriate exercises and given a list to follow. In general, swimming and a stationary bicycle are good exercise options. These exercises should be continued indefinitely even after your recovery is complete. Do not begin using a stationary bicycle until 4 weeks after surgery.

I think my leg lengths are different after total hip replacement surgery. What should I do?

It is not uncommon to feel as though your leg lengths are different after total hip replacement surgery. At surgery, leg lengths are assessed very carefully and an attempt is made to make them as equal as possible. Sometimes, the new hip has to be lengthened in order to obtain proper muscle tension (to help avoid hip dislocation). Wait 3 months before making any final judgments about your leg lengths. Your muscles and body take time to adjust to a new hip. In rare cases, a shoe lift may be prescribed for a true difference in leg lengths. In most cases, however, no treatment is necessary.

Can I use weights after total hip replacement surgery?

Generally, you should not use weights for the first 2 months after total hip replacement surgery. However, as everyone's strength varies, consult with your physical therapist before using weights. Use light weights to begin with and gradually progress from 1 lb. to a maximum of 5 lbs.

How long will I be on a “blood thinner” after total hip replacement surgery?

Typically, you will be on Coumadin (warfarin) as a "blood thinner." This medication is used to help prevent blood clots. You will start on Coumadin with a dose the night before surgery and continue while you are hospitalized. You will stay on Coumadin for 4 to 6 weeks. It is important to have your blood thinner level checked regularly and your Coumadin dose adjusted accordingly.

How long should I take iron supplements after total hip replacement surgery?

Taking iron supplements for 4 weeks after total hip replacement surgery is usually sufficient. These supplements help your body replenish its iron stores, which may be depleted post-operatively.

I am constipated after total hip replacement surgery. What should I do?

It is very common to have constipation post-operatively. This may be due to a variety of factors but is especially common when taking narcotic pain medication. A simple over-the-counter stool softener (such as Colace) is the best prevention for this problem. In rare instances, you may require a suppository or enema.

When can I drive after total hip replacement surgery?

If you had surgery on your right hip, you should not drive for at least 1 month after total hip replacement surgery. After 1 month, you may return to driving as you feel comfortable. If you had surgery on your left hip, you may return to driving as you feel comfortable as long as you have an automatic transmission. Be careful getting into and out of a car, and avoid crossing your operated leg over the other. DO NOT DRIVE IF TAKING NARCOTICS.

When can I return to work after total hip replacement surgery?

When you can return to work after total hip replacement surgery depends on your profession. Typically, if your work is primarily sedentary, you may return after approximately 1 month. If your work is more rigorous, you may require up to 3 months before you can return to full duty. In some cases, more time may be necessary.

When can I travel after total hip replacement surgery?

You may travel as soon as you feel comfortable after total hip replacement surgery. It is recommended that you get up to stretch or walk at least once an hour when taking long trips. This is important to help prevent blood clots.

Will I set off the machines at airport security after total hip replacement surgery? Do I need a doctor’s note about my surgery?

You may set off the machines at airport security depending on the type of hip implant you have and the sensitivity of the security checkpoint equipment. At your follow-up visit you may ask to have a wallet card to carry with you for travel.

What activities are permitted following total hip replacement surgery?

You may return to most activities as tolerated after total hip replacement surgery, including walking, gardening, and golf. Some of the best activities to help with motion and strengthening are swimming and a stationary bicycle.

What activities should I avoid after total hip replacement surgery?

You should avoid impact activities, such as running and downhill skiing on expert slopes, and vigorous racquet sports, such as singles tennis or squash. In addition, you should avoid any activity that may put your new hip at risk for dislocation.

Can I have sex after total hip replacement surgery?

You should wait several weeks post-operatively before resuming sexual intercourse. Follow your hip dislocation precautions. Having your legs apart is a safe position.

Can I drink alcohol after total hip replacement surgery?

If you are on Coumadin, avoid alcohol intake. Otherwise, use in moderation at your own discretion. You should also avoid alcohol if you are taking narcotics or other medications.

How long should I use compression stockings (TEDS) after total hip replacement surgery?

Compression stockings should be used for the first few weeks in order to help reduce swelling and improve circulation. You may wear them longer, especially if you find that your ankles swell without them.

Should I use ice or heat after total hip replacement surgery?

Ice should be used for the first several days after total hip replacement surgery, particularly if you have a lot of swelling or discomfort. Once the initial swelling has decreased, you may use ice and/or heat.

Can I go up and down stairs after total hip replacement surgery?
Yes. Initially, you will lead with your non-operated leg when going up stairs and lead with your operated leg when going down stairs. You can use the phrase, "Up with the good, down with bad" to help you remember. As your leg gets stronger, you will be able to perform on stairs in a more regular pattern (about 1 month).
Can I kneel after total hip replacement surgery?

Yes, you can kneel 6 weeks after total hip replacement surgery. To kneel, touch down with your operative knee first. To arise from kneeling, use your non-operative leg first.

What should I expect for my range of motion (ROM) at 6 weeks? At 1 year?

Everyone's range of motion (ROM) varies and depends on individual factors. Your potential will be determined at the time of your surgery. In most cases, you will have enough motion to put on socks and tie your shoes. Clipping toenails may be difficult.

Do I need antibiotics before dental work or an invasive procedure after total hip replacement surgery?

Yes. You will be given a letter explaining this in detail at your first follow-up visit. Avoid any dental cleaning or non-urgent procedures for 6 weeks post-operatively.

I feel depressed after total hip replacement surgery. Is this normal?

It is not uncommon to have feelings of depression after your hip replacement. This may be due to a variety of factors such as limited mobility, discomfort, increased dependency on others, and/or medication side effects. Feelings of depression will typically fade as you begin to return to your regular activities. If your feelings of depression persist, consult your internist.

I have insomnia after total hip replacement surgery. Is this normal? What can I do about it?

Insomnia is a common complaint following hip replacement surgery. Non-prescription remedies such as Benadryl or melatonin may be effective. If insomnia continues to be a problem, medication may be prescribed for you.

How long will my total hip replacement last?

This varies from patient to patient. For each year following your hip replacement, you have a 1% chance of requiring additional surgery. For example, at 10 years post-operatively, there is a 90% success rate.

When do I need to follow-up with my surgeon after total hip replacement surgery?

Follow-up appointments should be made post-operatively at 4-6 weeks, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 7 years, and 10 years.

Who should I call with questions after total hip replacement surgery?

In the case of an emergency, call 911. For all other inquiries, call the office at 404-778-3350. After business hours, listen to the recording and follow the instructions. Most calls will be returned within 1 business day.

Normal things about your new hip: Abnormal things about your new hip (call the office immediately if you experience any  of these):
  • Clicking noise with hip motion
  • Skin numbness near or around your incision
  • Swelling around hip, knee and/or lower leg
  • Warmth around hip
  • "Pins and needles" feeling at or near incision
  • Dark or red incision line. This will gradually fade to a lighter color.
  • Increased bruising if on Coumadin
  • Increasing redness, particularly spreading from incision
  • Increasing pain and swelling
  • Fever (>101° F)
  • Persistent drainage from your wound
  • Calf swelling or pain, particularly associated with ankle motion
  • A sudden "giving way" of your hip with inability to bear weight
  • Ankle swelling that does not decrease or resolve overnight
  • Bleeding gums or blood in urine/stool


Orthopedic Conditions