Recognising and preventing potential complications at home

Minimising risks after joint replacement surgery

Following total joint replacement, there are several things you need to look out for and manage as you recover.  A certain amount of tenderness and swelling is normal immediately following surgery. However if you notice any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

  • Increased pain
  • Increased redness or swelling
  • Changes in the incision drainage
  • Prolonged nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Chills or fever greater than 38 degrees Celsius. 

To learn more about complications such as infections, blood clots and joint dislocation, ask your doctor for a login to Strykercare Patient Resources. 

Recovering at home

Recovering at home 

Minimising risks after hip and knee surgery

Following total joint replacement, there are several things you need to look out for and manage as you recover. A certain amount of tenderness and swelling is normal immediately following surgery. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:

  • Increased pain
  • Increased redness or swelling
  • Changes in the discharge from your incision
  • Prolonged nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Chills, or fever greater than38°C.
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Infection

 

Infection

Infection can occur during or after surgery. For example germs may get into the joint and infect the implant, or get into the skin in and around the surgical incision. Bacteria that enter the bloodstream as a result of skin infections, during dental procedures or urinary tract infections are common causes of infection following joint replacement surgery, and they can form around the prosthesis (replacement joint).

Signs of a joint replacement infection include:

  • Significantly increased swelling or redness at the surgical incision
  • Changes in the colour, amount, and smell of drainage from your incision
  • Increased pain in the replaced joint
  • Chills, or fevers greater than 38°C.

Notify your doctor immediately if you develop any of these signs.

Tell your dentist or family physician about your joint replacement before any procedure, such as dental work, a cardiac catheter, bladder exam, or any surgery. You may need to take a course of antibiotics first to prevent infection.

Healing from operational procedures goes through several stages, and you may experience tingling, numbness and itching as part of the normal healing process. You may also feel a slight pulling around the stitches or clips, and notice a hard lump forming. It’s also normal for your operated leg to swell and bruise, and this can last for up to three months. However, if a wound starts swelling or discharging, you should contact your GP straight away.

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Blood clots

Blood clots

It’s important to look out for deep vein thrombosis (DVT), caused by blood clots forming in the legs. Blood clots can form ineitherleg, not just on your recently operated side, and can be dangerous – if they move to your lungs, they can cause pulmonary embolism (PE), a severe and sometimes life-threatening breathing problem. The risk of clots is present at any time for several weeks after your operation, but there are several simple ways to reduce the risk: 

While in hospital, you will:

  • Wear special compression stockings
  • Receive daily injections or tablets, which thin the blood to prevent clotting
  • Walk and exercise every day to encourage blood circulation.

While at home, look out for signs of clotting. These include:

  • Swelling in your thigh, calf or ankle that doesn’t go down when you lift your leg up
  • Pain, tenderness and heat in the calf muscle.

Signs that a blood clot has travelled to your lung include:

  • Sudden chest pain
  • Difficult or rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Increased sweating
  • Confusion.

Contact your doctor immediately if you develop any of these signs.

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Dislocation following hip replacement

Dislocation following hip replacement

Dislocation happens when the hip implant comes out of the socket. If this happens, you may needsurgery to correct the problem,so it’s important to be careful with your new hip. You can avoid dislocation by following these simple guidelines. Ask your surgeon how long they would like you to follow these requirements. Avoid sitting for more than an hour at a time without standing, stretching or taking a few steps. This applies to car journeys, too.

  • Do not cross your legs.
  • Don’t sit in a reclining chair, low sofa or stool.

Signs of dislocation include:

  • Severe pain
  • Rotation or shortening of the affected leg
  • Sudden inability to walk, or move your leg.

Contact your surgeon straight away if you think you may have dislocated your hip. 

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Next Steps

Contact your GP or health professional to discuss your options