What do I need to do to prepare for hip surgery?

Reading the information on this site, communicating with your surgical team and paying close attention to the checklists will best help you prepare for hip replacement surgery. The importance of preparation and information to successful surgery cannot be overemphasized.

What health conditions must be considered before undergoing surgery?

Some patients have unusual problems, such as HIV infection, hemophilia, cancer, bleeding disorders, liver or kidney transplants, enzyme disorders, and other conditions that require specialty consultations before surgery. If these considerations apply to you, we work with you to obtain the necessary testing and treatment before surgery.

What medical testing is needed before hip replacement surgery?

Pre-surgical checks are essential for your safety and it is unwise to skip them. They are comparable to pre-flight checks that every responsible pilot makes before taking off. Out-of-town patients, or those traveling long distances, can have local doctors perform these checks. We work with your doctors to expedite this. The necessary pre-surgical checks are listed below.

  • Dental check. A dental check-up is necessary to identify any hidden infection in your teeth or gums. Such infections must be treated before hip replacement to eliminate the risk that bacteria from decayed teeth enter the bloodstream and end up infecting the hip implants. If you are traveling from out of town, visit your dentist and forward us the information.
  • Heart check. If there is any reasonable suspicion of heart disease based on your history, it is best to find out ahead of time if your heart is healthy enough for hip replacement surgery. Heart disease is usually silent; patients do not have symptoms until the heart is stressed. If indicated, we will have you see a cardiologist before surgery for clearance.
  • Medical check. Before your surgery, you should see an internal medicine specialist to identify and manage your health risks. Examples of increased risks are heart and lung disease, tooth and gum disease, infection, obesity and diabetes. 

What if I have bowel problems?

Pre-existing trouble with constipation usually leads to constipation and related problems after hip replacement. If you regularly take supplements to encourage bowel movements, let us know and we will plan accordingly, since the medicines we use during and after surgery can result in serious constipation.

You’ll be given a stool softener before surgery to avoid problems with constipation later. Even so, you can probably expect disturbance of bowel patterns and at least some degree of constipation after hip replacement surgery.

How does diabetes affect my surgery?

Blood glucose levels over 200 will lead to poor wound healing and increased risk of infection. Therefore, it is critical your diabetes is under control before surgery. A medical consultation and lab data before surgery helps us ensure your diabetes is controlled and your surgical risk is minimized.

Does osteoporosis affect the success of a total hip replacement?

No. If bone has severe osteoporosis, it may not be possible for us to use an un-cemented prosthesis. However, the cemented version of total hips can be implanted in nearly every type of bone, including bone that has osteoporosis. These outcomes are very successful.

What about alcohol and drug use?

Regular alcohol consumption should be disclosed to your anesthesiologist and surgeon ahead of time. Alcohol withdrawal can happen to anyone, regardless of economic or social background. When it happens, it can be life threatening and can complicate your recovery from surgery. If we know about alcohol consumption, we can take steps to avoid withdrawal. The same is true of recreational drugs. Be sure to talk about this with the anesthesia doctor.

What if I am a smoker?

Smoking increases the chance of lung complications during and after surgery, delays wound healing, increases the risk of complications after surgery and increases the odds of residual hip pain even after successful hip replacement. Therefore, you should try to stop smoking, both for your general health and to improve the odds of a successful result from hip replacement. Most hospitals are smoke-free and you may not be able to smoke on the premises.

Does my body weight affect hip replacement?

Obesity increases the risk of complications from surgery, such as blood clots and slower wound healing. Ideally, your weight should be within reasonable limits before hip replacement surgery. In some cases, for excessively heavy patients, hip replacement is not an option without drastic weight reduction, such as with gastric bypass surgery.

That said, many people are somewhat overweight and unable to lose weight while dealing with a painful arthritic hip. The hip components are designed to handle enormous loads, and are safe, even in very heavy people. There is no evidence to suggest that the components loosen up prematurely, or wear out prematurely in heavy people.

What about dieting and exercising before surgery?

Maintain a nutritionally sound diet including a variety of foods in preparation for surgery. Crash dieting is not necessary; rather, regular exercise will help control weight and improve overall health.

Exercise before surgery, done within reason, and within the capability of the patient, improves the recovery from hip surgery. Therefore, a reasonable exercise program to strengthen your thigh and calf muscles before hip replacement surgery is the best thing you can do to speed up your recovery.

How can exercise before the surgery help my recovery after?

Exercising and strengthening the thigh and leg muscles before the operation results in faster recovery and return to function, with less suffering, struggle, depression and mood swings. Consultation with a physical therapist before surgery can be very useful.

The reason exercise helps is that the hip, even if worn out, is a living joint. Living tissues respond positively to physiologic stress, and exercise is known to improve self-perception, esteem, and outlook.

When do I first visit the hospital?

About a week or so before surgery, you will visit the pre-op department in the hospital. This visit is to read and sign consents for the surgery, for the anesthesia, and for blood products (if needed). You will have lab tests, possibly a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram. Please make a list of your medications and their dosages before this visit.

At this visit, you will be instructed on where to report on the morning of surgery. You will receive instructions on not eating or drinking after midnight the night before your surgery. This includes chewing gum and hard candy.

Keep in mind surgery schedules change often. This is why the exact timing of the operation is not known until the day before. If you have a special preference, such as being the first in the day, or last, or in between, simply let us know and we will do our best to accommodate.

When will I be assigned a surgery time?

The hospital contacts you a day before the surgery to tell you what time to arrive at the hospital. Surgery schedules tend to change, which is why most hospitals confirm the exact surgery time only a day or so before the operation. Please arrive early. The actual operation will usually be less than an hour in duration, but preparation takes much longer.

We have a program called “Joint Camp” that is designed to introduce you, in person, to the hospital and other resources, and to provide further education before your operation. You will get information on this program as part of the preparation, in case you decide to attend.

When do I see the anesthesiologist?

On the morning of your surgery, you will see an anesthesia doctor (anesthesiologist) who will have already reviewed your medical records. If your medical condition so requires, we will have consulted with the anesthesia doctor ahead of time. This doctor inquires about your health and plans the anesthetic technique, including any regional nerve pain blocks. If you know of a particular anesthesiologist at the hospital whom you would prefer to provide this service, simply let us know ahead of time.

Should I donate my blood for surgery?

No. This is not necessary since not everyone needs a blood transfusion after hip replacement. If you have religious convictions against blood products, let us know and we can arrange to recycle your own blood. Blood loss differs from patient to patient, and pre-existing conditions such as anemia and other diseases can affect the odds of needing blood after surgery.

As a general rule, major bone surgery is associated with blood loss, but it is impossible to say how much blood a particular patient will lose. If needed, blood transfusions today are very safe and effective.