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Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust

Your joint replacement

Your operation

The main reason patients undergo joint replacement surgery is because a joint has become too painful or too difficult to use during daily activities.

Joint replacements are one of the most commonly performed and most successful operations in the UK. As with all surgery, there are some risks that you should discuss with your surgeon.

During the operation the problem joint is exposed, and the joint surface and some bone tissue is removed from the bone ends. The prosthesis is then fixed to the bone ends.

After surgery you will need to remain in hospital for a few days, and then undergo several weeks of rehabilitation. This will improve your strength and endurance, making it easier and less painful to move around.

The degree to which movement improves depends on the individual, the deterioration of the joint before surgery and how strong the muscles surrounding your joints are.

Before your operation

It is quite normal to feel apprehensive before any surgery. Remember that you and your doctor have agreed that an artificial joint is the most appropriate treatment for your condition. Your joint replacement should relieve your pain and improve the quality of your life. For example, you may be able to go back to work and resume sporting activities you had given up, sleep better, and lead a more active social life. So, in short, there is a lot to look forward to.

You are likely to recover more quickly if you are as fit and healthy as possible. By doing a few simple things before your operation, you can help to aid your recovery and avoid complications:

  • Read all the information you have been given about your operation and recovery

  • Stop smoking (a good idea at any time). By avoiding smoking before your operation, you will help reduce the risk of lung problems and help your wound to heal faster

  • Keep active and exercise within your limits

  • Practice any exercises you have been shown

  • inform your specialist if you have any potential source of infection for your new joint, eg a tooth infection, bladder infection or leg ulcers

  • Ask about any alterations you should make to your home, such as raising the height of beds, chairs and toilet seats, and about any equipment you may need, eg long-handled shoehorn

  • Listen to your surgeon’s advice about the other things they may want you to do in preparation for your operation. For instance, your regular medication may be altered or stopped for a short while before your operation.

After your operation

Take the opportunity while you are in hospital to ask the doctors or nursing team if you have any concerns about your operation or new joint. Once you are back at home, consult your GP, district nurse or specialist.

Do’s and Don’ts

There are a few rules that you may be asked to follow to minimise the risk to your replacement; for example to reduce the the risk of your new hip dislocating. These precautions are particularly important for the first few weeks. Always remember that practices vary and surgeons have different preferences, so it might be sensible to check.


  • Continue doing the exercises that your physiotherapist has shown you

  • Wear your elastic stockings if advised to do so

  • Take regular exercise, eg walking, and increase it gradually

  • Make your home safe to move about in, remove any trip hazards such as rugs, trailing flexes and always think before you move

  • Always use any equipment issued by your occupational therapist

  • Ask for help if things are difficult

  • Enjoy life and your increasing mobility.


  • Cross your legs

  • Lie on your side for the first six weeks after your operation

  • Kneel or stoop

  • Bend down to pick up objects

  • Twist the hip

  • Attempt to cut or paint your toenails

  • Lift your knee joint higher than your hip, eg by sitting in a low chair.

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