Preparing for Knee- or Hip-Replacement Surgery

Scheduling your surgery is a big milestone. While you’re checking things off your list, take a look at some of the other common pre-surgery tasks. It may seem like a lot to think about, but tackling some of these now can free you up to have the best experience possible and help you focus on your recovery.

What to do before surgery

Ask about donating your own blood

Talk to your surgeon about whether you’ll need to donate some blood in case it’s needed during your surgery. You should also tell your surgeon about any cuts, sores, or other wounds in your skin before surgery.

See your dentist

Complete any necessary dental work before surgery. If dental work is done too close to your surgery date, germs from your mouth may enter your blood and cause infection.

Talk to your healthcare team

Tell any specialists you see for other conditions about your upcoming surgery and provide a list of medications you’ll be taking. You should also ask your surgeon which medications to avoid before surgery—these may include over-the-counter medicines and certain herbs or vitamins.

Call your health insurance company

Make sure you have insurance authorization for your surgery, medications, and any post-surgery care you may need.

Fill your prescriptions

While you’re in the hospital, you will get medications from the staff. When you leave, you may need to have other prescriptions for your recovery already filled, such as antibiotics, pain medications, and blood thinners for helping to prevent blood clots after surgery. Talk to your healthcare professional about filling these in advance.

Make arrangements for leaving the hospital

If your healthcare professional says you’ll need an extended-care facility or rehabilitation center after surgery, ask for a recommendation for one that’s covered by your health insurance plan. Then, you or your caregiver can visit a few to see which one suits your needs, and to make arrangements. If your healthcare professional recommends a professional home care worker, you’ll need to arrange that as well. Be aware that many factors affect this decision, including your age, overall health and strength, and whether you will have the help of a friend or family member.

Coordinate physical therapy

Talk with a physical therapist if your surgeon recommends therapy. Your program may even start before surgery, with exercises to help speed recovery.

Get set up at home

Make sure furniture will be easy to get to—place items you’ll need where you can reach them without bending. Remove rugs and electrical cords that may cause you to trip. That way, your home will be more comfortable and safe when you return from surgery.

Pack a bag

If you will be staying in the hospital overnight, you may want to pack some of the following items to make your stay more comfortable:

  • Loose-fitting, comfortable clothing and fresh undergarments
  • Pajamas or a robe
  • Warm socks and comfortable shoes like slip-on sneakers or slippers
  • Toiletries
  • Something to read
  • Electronic devices like your phone or tablet (don’t forget the charger!)

Apply for a temporary Disabled Parking card

Ask the staff at your healthcare professional’s office how to apply. You may have to get one from the Department of Motor Vehicles or an auto club.

What to expect the day of your surgery

When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll go to a pre-surgery area to complete any final paperwork and change into a hospital gown. Nurses will monitor your vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure. You’ll also be started on an intravenous (IV) line that will be used to deliver medications and fluids directly into your bloodstream. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will also talk with you before they begin your procedure.

Estimated timeline

Pre-surgery planning 1 to 2 months
Hospital stay 3 to 5 days
Full recovery hip replacement 3 to 6 months
Full recovery knee replacement 6 months
Smoking cessations and surgery prep

Do you smoke?

Consider quitting. Not only is it the best thing you can do for your overall health, it will also reduce your risk of complications after surgery. These tips for quitting can help.

After surgery caregiver guide

Do you have help?

If a friend or family member will be assisting you throughout this process, it may help to share this caregiver guide with them as soon as possible so they can be better prepared to provide you with the support you need.