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 What Can I Expect?

Nurse speaking to patient and family member

Your time in the hospital is short. During this time, your healthcare team will work with you to make sure you are ready and able to manage your daily activities so you can be safely discharged home.

Both the patient and their healthcare team have a responsibility to reduce the chance of infection and the possible spread of disease by following proper hand washing guidelines and practices.

Click on the following links to find information on how long you should expect to stay in hospital, what to expect on your day of surgery, and to learn about the healthcare team that will be taking care of you.

Length of Hospital Stay

How long you will stay in hospital will depend upon the state of your health and meeting discharge goals. The length of stay for hip or knee joint replacement surgery is normally three to five days. For patients on an accelerated schedule, your hospital stay may be three days or less.

My Healthcare Team

Your orthopaedic healthcare team – including your surgeon and nursing staff, physiotherapists, occupational therapy staff and others – will care for you while you are in hospital. They will work with you to make sure you understand everything you need to do to protect your hip or knee joint, and keep you healthy and flexible after your surgery.

Your physiotherapist will teach you how to get in and out of bed, how to use walking equipment, how to climb stairs safely, and how to do exercises while you are in the hospital and after you return home. They will also tell you about rehabilitation options and any equipment you need for a speedy recovery.

Your occupational therapist can provide instructions on how to safely go about everyday household activities, including dressing, toileting and bathing yourself after surgery, setting up your house and workplace, and how getting safely in and out of your car.

Your nurse will coordinate your care by working closely with you and your team of healthcare providers. They will discuss your medications with you, help you with your incision care, and provide useful tips to help you manage your symptoms.

You may have other health care members as needed.

Before Surgery

If you are feeling sick before your surgery,  please call your surgeon, orthopaedic clinic, operating room booking, or the number you were given.

Do not eat or drink after midnight on the day of your surgery unless you are told otherwise. When you arrive, check in at the Admitting desk. You will need to bring all medications you are on, including herbal supplements, with you to the hospital.

The hospital where you are having your surgery may require you to bring equipment to the hospital when you go in for surgery, or may ask that someone bring it to you before you are discharged. Ask your friend or family member to bring any equipment you require, clearly labeled, to your hospital unit.

To get ready for surgery, you will need to change into a hospital gown. A nurse will start an intravenous (IV) line in your arm, or else the anesthetist will start one in the Operating Room.

During Surgery

You will be given a spinal or general anesthetic. Anesthetics are simply pain medications that help make you more comfortable during your surgery.

If you are having a spinal anesthetic for your joint replacement surgery, it will involve a freezing similar to what you get at the dentist. You will feel numb from the chest down to stop you from feeling any pain. You will not be able to move your legs for up to 4 hours after surgery.

If you are receiving a general anesthetic you will be given a combination of drugs to make you unconscious during the surgery.

Your anesthesiologist will give you medicine through your IV to make you relaxed and sleepy. Any questions you have about your anesthesia you should ask the anesthetist during your Pre-Admission Clinic appointment.

After Surgery

After your surgery in the Operating Room, you will be moved to the Recovery Room for a short while - usually 1 to 3 hours. You may be given oxygen. The nurse will monitor your vital signs frequently, including your pulse and blood pressure. Be sure to tell your nurse if you are in pain! You may be given pain medication regularly through your IV line as needed.

Once you are medically stable, you will be moved to a hospital room in the Orthopaedic/Surgery Unit. After surgery, you will be told how much weight you can place on your new joint. This is called your weight bearing status. The staff will help you stand and walk on your new joint as your doctor allows. As with any surgery you should expect some swelling around the operated area. Your nurse will continue to monitor you to control your pain and that your amount of swelling is normal. You may use a commode/raised toilet seat. The staff will help you walk to the bathroom whenever you are able.

If you are having trouble urinating, you may need a catheter tube temporarily placed in your bladder.  If you are having knee surgery (and for some hip surgeries), you may have a drain to help remove any extra fluid.

To prevent complications after surgery, you will be taught deep breathing and coughing exercises that keep your lungs clear. You will also learn how to do ankle-pumping exercises to improve the blood flow in your legs. Getting up and moving around early after surgery will also help to reduce complications and keep your lungs clear.

You may be given blood thinning medicine to reduce the risk of blood clots. It will be given by injection or in a pill form. To learn more about injections and how to give them by yourself and to find out more about medications and controlling your pain after your surgery visit Pain control and blood clots.