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 Going Home

Happy Couple

You have been discharged from the hospital and you are ready to go home. Patients are not permitted to operate a vehicle regardless of the type of surgery (hip or knee) and which side was operated on. Most patients can go home in a regular car, and may ride in a car as a passenger without a problem but hip patients should minimize travel even as a passenger.  

Hip and knee replacement patients don’t usually drive again until six to eight weeks after their surgery. Your surgeon will tell you when you are ready to drive your car again.

When going home, you will need a walking aid such as a two-wheel walker or crutches. If you do not already have a walking aid, make sure you will be able to buy, rent or borrow one recommended by the physiotherapist.

Make sure you schedule a follow-up appointment with your surgeon, and any other appointments that you need as part of your follow-up care. If you have had a knee replacement, you will need to see a physiotherapist as an outpatient for ongoing rehabilitation after your surgery.

Be sure to ask your surgeon, nurse, or occupational therapist when you can start to shower.

Before you leave the hospital, make sure you have prescriptions for any new medications that your doctor prescribes.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about going home after your hip or knee replacement surgery.

Transportation Home

When you travel home from the hospital for hip or knee surgery, you need to be both prepared and flexible. Most patients are able to go home in a regular car, and can ride in a car as a passenger for travelling short distances to and from appointments and other activities.

If you have a longer drive, you should bring along your walking aid and raised toilet seat for rest stops along the way. It is also a good idea to map out places you can stop for refreshments and restrooms along the way. 

Do your ankle pumping exercises hourly. Plan on making frequent stops (every one to two hours) so you can walk around. This will improve your circulation and keep you from getting too stiff.

Some travel tips for going home after surgery:

    Red car
  • Arrange to have a family member or friend drive you home. You will need help and support after surgery.
  • Be flexible so you can change your travel plans if you need to. Your discharge time and date may change. Make sure you and your support person have a place to stay if you are discharged early.
  • Make sure you take your walking aids (e.g. walker, crutches and/or cane) home with you, and plan to have an extra-firm cushion to place in your car seat for your drive home.
  • You should bring your raised toilet seat for longer drives, in case you need to visit a rest room on the way.
  • If a doctor suggests that you should be driven home by an ambulance, you might be able to pay a lower fee for this service.
  • Arrange for your driver to be at the hospital to pick you up by the discharge time of 11 am.
  • Remember to move your leg often and do ankle pumping exercises while riding in a car!

Picking Up Equipment

CrutchesYou should have already arranged for any equipment you need to make life easier at home (e.g. raised toilet seat, bath or shower equipment). It’s a good idea to set up this equipment at home before your surgery. This way, you can practice and learn how to use it beforehand!

For a handy checklist about the equipment that helps you have a safe recovery at home, see Equipment Checklist.

If all your equipment is not at home yet, don’t forget to pick it up. You might need extra equipment depending on your situation. If you don’t know what equipment you will need, speak to an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist.

You can rent or buy your equipment from:

  • Red Cross
  • Medical equipment suppliers in the Yellow Pages of the telephone book
  • Local drug stores
  • Local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion

If you have insurance, you should check about any coverage for equipment, and whether a prescription is required. Patients can borrow equipment from their local Red Cross free of charge (a donation is appreciated when you return the item).

You should also check with your friends and family – they might know where you can find or borrow some equipment! Be sure to inspect the equipment to ensure it is in good working order.

Scheduling Follow-Up Appointments

Doctor listening to patientIf there are no problems during your recovery, you will meet your surgeon again about two to six weeks after you leave the hospital.  You can expect to see your surgeon several times over the next year. You will be provided with your appointment dates and times at each visit. It’s a good idea to have someone – a family member or friend – come with you to this visit to listen and take notes. If you have questions, write them down and bring them with you.

If you had knee replacement surgery, you will also need to arrange a visit with a physiotherapist as part of your physiotherapy program. If you have had hip replacement surgery, you should discuss your physiotherapy needs with your surgeon during your post-op visit.

You will also need to see your family doctor as part of your ongoing care.

Prescriptions Needed

Prescription pillsBefore you leave the hospital (either before or on your discharge day) you will be given a prescription for any new medicine that you will need after your surgery. Don’t go home without your prescription.

There may be a pharmacist at the hospital who can answer any questions you may have. You can also go over your medications with a nurse. As well, your community pharmacist can answer any questions you have about your medication. It is important to know what medications you are taking and why you are taking them.