Owen R. O’Neill, MD

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10 FAQs About Joint Surgery – After Surgery

  • How long will I be in the hospital?
    For joint replacement surgery, most patients are hospitalized for 4 days, including the day of surgery. Hospital stays may vary if the patient is either going to a rehabilitation center, a sub-acute facility, or not cleared medically or surgically for discharge home.Please be advised that most insurance plans cover 3-4 days of acute care in the hospital for total knee replacement surgery. Some insurances do provide for further care in several other types of facilities. It is advisable for each patient to contact their health insurance provider for specific programs covered and to obtain these provisions in writing.
  • Will I go home after my hospital stay or to a skilled nursing facility?
    Whether you go home from the hospital or are transferred to a rehab facility will depend on your progression in physical therapy as well as your comfort level. Most people who do not live alone are able to go home after their hospital stay and do outpatient physical therapy. Patients who live alone or do not feel comfortable going home will be transferred to a skilled nursing facility for a short term stay. Some patients stay a few days and others stay a few weeks depending on their individual situation. While at the rehab facility you will have therapy every day.
  • How long will I need to take pain medication?
    Patients take pain medication for a variable amount of time. Most hip replacement patients are able to wean themselves off the pain medication 2-4 weeks after surgery. Knee replacement patients typically take pain medication for 6-8 weeks.
  • I am having trouble sleeping, what do I do?
    Try to exercise during the day and avoid “cat napping.” The next thing you should try is taking your bedtime dose of pain medication with Tylenol PM. This has Benadryl in with the Tylenol and can help make you drowsy and make falling asleep easier. Take this medication as directed on the bottle. If you continue to have difficulty sleeping at night discuss this with Dr. O’Neill or Jessie.
  • Can I get my incision wet?
    You can shower with your incision exposed on day 2-3 after surgery. You can submerge the incision once it has fully healed about 3-4 weeks after surgery.
  • When can I drive?
    You will not be able to drive right after surgery. You will need to arrange for a ride home from the hospital. If you are planning on going to a transitional care facility the social worker can arrange for transportation from the hospital. You will also want to arrange for rides to your physical therapy appointments at least for the first few weeks after surgery. You can return to driving when you feel you can safely operate the vehicle and you are no longer taking narcotic pain medication during the day. Often times this is within 2 weeks of surgery.
  • Do I need a special card indicating I have a joint replacement to get through airport security?
    Your joint replacement will make the security alarms go off at the airport. TSA is not interested in a security card. You simply need to inform the checkpoint worker that you have a replacement and they will screen you accordingly. You should allow for extra time to get through security at the airport.
  • Do I need to take an antibiotic before dental cleanings?
    After total joint surgery it is best to wait 3 months before having any dental cleaning done. Once you do go back to the dentist after surgery you will need to take an antibiotic. You should take this prior to any dental cleaning for the rest of your life. The antibiotic is to prevent the bacteria from your mouth getting into your blood and causing an infection in your joint. You can request this antibiotic through our office.
  • How physically active can I be with a new joint?
    The goal of joint replacement surgery it to get you back to all the things you used to do before your joint pain limited your activity. This includes walking, gardening, golf, tennis, even downhill skiing. The only activity that Dr. O’Neill would like you to avoid is long distance running. This is because the repetitive impact of running on the joint can wear the polyethylene plastic insert faster.
  • How often do I need to see the physical therapist?
    Hip replacement patients will not need to see a physical therapist. The best therapy after hip replacement surgery it to walk. Knee replacement patients will meet with a physical therapist 2-3 times a week to start once you have left the hospital. Your therapy sessions will become less frequent as your motion and strength improve. Most patients continue to see a physical therapist for 6-8 weeks after surgery.