Recovering from hip replacement 

After the operation, you will be lying flat on your back and may have a pillow between your legs to keep your hip in the correct position. The nursing staff will monitor your condition and you will have a large dressing on your leg to protect the wound.

You may be allowed to have a drink about an hour after you return to the ward and, depending on your condition, you may be allowed to have something to eat.

How soon will I be up and about?

The staff will help you to get up and walk about as quickly as possible after surgery. Some patients are able to get up and walk the same day as their surgery.

Initially, you will feel discomfort while walking and exercising, and your legs and feet may be swollen. You may be given an injection into your abdomen to help prevent blood clots forming in your legs, and possibly a short course of antibiotics to help prevent infection.

physiotherapist may teach you exercises to help strengthen the hip and explain what should and should not be done after the operation. They will teach you how to bend and sit to avoid damaging your new hip.

Looking after your new hip

With care, your new hip should last well. The following advice may be given by the hospital to help you care for your new hip. However, the advice may vary based on your doctors recommendations:

  • avoid bending your hip more than 90° (a right angle) during any activity
  • avoid twisting your hip
  • do not swivel on the ball of your foot
  • when you turn around, take small steps
  • do not apply pressure to the wound in the early stages (so try to avoid lying on your side)
  • do not cross your legs over each other
  • do not force the hip or do anything that makes your hip feel uncomfortable
  • avoid low chairs and toilet seats (raised toilet seats are available)

When can I go home?

You will usually be in hospital for around three to five days. If you are generally fit and well, the surgeon may suggest an enhanced recovery programme, where you start walking on the day of the operation and are discharged within one to three days.

How will I feel when I get home?

Do not be surprised if you feel very tired at first. You have had a major operation and muscles and tissues surrounding your new hip will take time to heal.

You may be eligible for home help and there may be aids that can help you. You may want to arrange to have someone to help you for a week or so.

An occupational therapist should be available to help you. They will assess how physically capable you are and, when you are about to leave hospital, they will assess your circumstances at home.

Your occupational therapist will be able to advise you on how to do daily activities, such as washing yourself. They will also advise about any equipment you may need to help you to be independent in your daily activities. This may include a raised toilet seat and aids to help you dress. 

How soon will the pain go away?

The pain that you may have experienced before the operation should go immediately, although you can expect to feel some pain as a result of the operation itself, but this will not last for long.

Is there anything I should look out for or worry about?

After hip replacement surgery, contact your GP if you notice redness, fluid or an increase in pain in the new joint.

Will I have to go back to hospital?

You will be given an appointment to check up on your progress, usually 6-12 weeks after your hip replacement. The surgeon will want to see you a year later to check that everything is OK, and every five years after that to X-ray your hip and make sure it is not beginning to loosen.

How long will it be before I feel back to normal?

Generally, you should be able to stop using your crutches within four to six weeks and feel more or less normal after three months, by which time you should be able to perform all your normal activities.

It is best to avoid extreme movements or sports where there is a risk of falling, such as skiing or riding. Your doctor or a physiotherapist can advise you about this.

When can I drive again?

You can usually drive a car after about six weeks, subject to advice from your surgeon. It can be tricky getting in and out of your car at first. It is best to ease yourself in backwards and swing both legs round together.

When can I go back to work?

This depends on your job, but you can usually return to work 6-12 weeks after your operation.

How will it affect my sex life?

If you were finding sex difficult before because of pain, you may find that having the operation gives your sex life a boost. Your surgeon can advise when it is OK to have sex again. As long as you are careful, you should be able to have sex after six to eight weeks. Avoid vigorous sex and more extreme positions.

Will I need another new hip?

Nowadays, most hip implants last for 15 years or more. If you are older, your new hip may last your lifetime. If you are younger, you may need another new hip at some point.

Revision surgery is more complicated and time-consuming for the surgeon to perform than a first hip replacement and complication rates are usually higher. It cannot be performed in every patient. However, it is much more successful than it used to be and most people who can have it report success for 10 years or more.

Post-operative hip care

An expert explains how a physiotherapist will help to get your hip moving again after surgery.

Media last reviewed: 30/04/2013

Next review due: 30/04/2015

Avoiding falls

You will need to be extra careful to avoid falls in the first few weeks after surgery as this could damage your hip, meaning you may then require more surgery.

Use any walking aid, such as crutches, a cane or a walker as directed.

Take extra care on the stairs and in the kitchen and bathroom as these are all common places where people can have accidental falls.

Read more about preventing falls in the home.

Page last reviewed: 20/07/2014

Next review due: 20/07/2016