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The Be Well Podcast - Total Joint Replacement Recovery

Listen in or read the partial transcript below as Alexander Willis, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon with Skagit Regional Health discusses what you need to know about total joint replacement surgery, how to prepare for it and what to expect during the recovery process. 

Cheryl Martin (Host): This is Be Well with Skagit Regional Health. I'm Cheryl Martin. Dr. Willis, how can patients best prepare for surgery?

Dr. Alexander Willis: Well, first of all, thanks for having me on the podcast. I kind of put that into a couple broad categories. There are ways to mentally prepare, physically prepare, medically prepare and socially prepare for a surgery, like a total joint replacement. The medical part certainly starts in the office. We want to make sure that patients are great candidates for total joint replacement. So that will mean things like, smoking cessation and making sure diabetes is well managed. From a social standpoint, it's very important that patients have some social support at home to help them initially in the recovery process.

From a physical standpoint. It's important that patients are able to set up their home environments to make recovery much easier for themselves. And then from a mental standpoint, they need to get as educated as possible about the surgery and what's involved and what to expect afterwards going into it.

Dr. Alexander Willis Skagit Regional Health

Cheryl Martin (Host): So how long does it typically take for joint replacement patients to get back to work or normal activities?

Dr. Alexander Willis: Well, that will certainly depend on the type of work patients are doing. I usually say that for patients that have sedentary jobs, they're usually able to go back to those within four to six weeks after a hip or a knee replacements. For a patient that has a job that involves occasional walking, standing, things like that might be two, two and a half months. And then for a relatively physical job, it's going to be at least three months or so.

Cheryl Martin (Host): So, do patients typically experience pain during recovery, and if so, how is that pain controlled?

Dr. Alexander Willis: Yes. So total knee and total hip replacement procedures can be painful, and we use something called multimodal pain management to try to decrease that overall pain requirement. So, we'll use medications such as Tylenol, anti-inflammatories and your typical opioid medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone to get that pain under control, around the surgical period. We also use, something called regional blocks, which will temporarily numb some of the surgical field to allow for the first couple days to be relatively pain free.

Cheryl Martin (Host): Now, what are some unanticipated challenges that a patient might experience during recovery?

Dr. Alexander Willis: Well, so one of the things I hear in my office, when patients come back for their post-op visits is that they oftentimes have trouble sleeping and sometimes they have changes in their appetite. And those are both very normal things to experience after a major surgery like this.

Cheryl Martin (Host): When you say major surgery, let's go back a bit. Is this in an out surgery or a patient can expect to be in the hospital more than one day?

Dr. Alexander Willis: So it really depends on the patient, since Coronavirus started, we've been doing more of these surgeries outpatient, where the patient comes in the morning, has the surgery, does a little bit of physical therapy, and then is actually able to go home in the afternoon. And I would say at this point, that's the majority of, what we do occasionally, patients have some other medical problems that require them to stay in the hospital a day or two.

Cheryl Martin (Host): So what are some red flags patients watch for or should watch for during the recovery process?

Dr. Alexander Willis: So with a total hip or a total knee procedure, the incisions are somewhere between six to eight inches typically, and we really want to make sure that those incisions close and heal and do well. And so something to look out for is drainage from the incision that lasts for more than a week or two redness around the incision. And then of course if there's abnormal swelling in the leg, then that can be, certainly concerning for something like a blood clot.

Cheryl Martin (Host): So then what should a patient do if he or she has any concerns while recovering, especially concerns what you just mentioned?

Dr. Alexander Willis: So I always emphasize to the patients that they should call our office. if we don't know about the problem, then we can't really help them with it. So they should call our office if they have any concerns at all. Oftentimes I'll have patients come in a little bit earlier than their scheduled post-op visit just to have something checked out and it's usually fine, but I always encourage them to just contact the office if there's ever any question about what's going on.

To listen to the rest of the podcast or read the full transcript, visit here.