After Your Surgery

Doctor Visits

Doctors typically visit patients daily between 6 and 8 a.m. Use this opportunity to ask questions and discuss your care plan.

Pain Management

The goal of pain management is to make you as comfortable as possible by reducing your pain, yet allowing you to remain alert enough to move, breathe deeply and help care for yourself. These activities help prevent complications and speed up recovery.

  • Many people experience postsurgery pain and discomfort for 4 -6 weeks.
  • You are the expert on your pain. Tell staff or a nurse if you hurt or are uncomfortable.
  • It’s important to ask for and take pain medicine when you feel pain. Waiting longer may cause your pain to be more severe and medicine to take longer before taking effect.

Your nurses will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10, with 0 as no pain at all and 10 as the worst pain imaginable. Even though your pain may not be completely gone, it is important that it be at a level you can tolerate. This will allow you to rest and move comfortably.

Types of Pain Medications

  • PNC (peripheral nerve catheter): Many patients receive a PNC during surgery or immediately afterward in the recovery room. The PNC provides a continuous infusion of numbing solution into the major nerve near your surgical site. If the PNC is not effective in controlling your pain, other medications such as a PCA may be available.
  • PCA (patient-controlled analgesia): Some patients receive a PCA so they can administer pain medication with a push of a button. The machine is hooked into your IV line and set to deliver medication at certain intervals of time. Small tubing will be placed in your nose to monitor your breathing while on the PCA. For your safety, the PCA button may only be pushed by you. The PCA delivers medication only if enough time has passed between button pushes. It will stop dispensing medication if you have reached your maximum dose as determined by your doctor and nurse.
  • IV (intravenous) medications: When your doctor prescribes it, you may receive pain medicine through your IV line. Once your doctor orders this medication, it may be given to you as needed, when you request it.
  • Oral medications: Patients are often given pain medicine in the form of a pill once they are able to tolerate fluids and preparing to go home. This medicine will be given to you only as needed, when you request it.

Complementary Pain Therapy

  • Distraction (Methods such as reading and talking can turn away attention from pain.)
  • Guided imagery (meditation and breathing exercises)
  • Cold therapy (Applying ice packs can reduce pain.)
  • Music therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Relaxation (Decreasing stress, reducing muscle tension or remembering pleasant experiences can help reduce pain.)

Swelling, Bruising and Cold Therapy

You may experience swelling of your hip or knee for 3-6 months following the procedure. You may also notice bruising near and around the incision site. As the healing progresses, the swelling and bruising will reduce.

Cold therapy or an ice pack can help reduce pain and swelling. To help relieve discomfort, place an ice pack while awake with a barrier such as a towel to protect your skin and incision site and apply for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times per day.

Homemade Ice Pack Recipe:
2 cups water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
Plastic reclosable zip-top bag, gallon or quart sized

Mix water and rubbing alcohol together in plastic bag and place in freezer. Use as recommended for therapy.

Other Medications

Stool softener
Constipation is a common side effect of pain medicine. The nurses will work with you to get your bowels regulated after surgery. You will be given a stool softener each day while you’re on pain medicine. Laxatives may be ordered, as well.

IV fluids
You will receive IV fluids for hydration while in the hospital. This will continue until you are eating and drinking well, which is typically the day following surgery.

Blood thinner
Small shots of enoxaparin (Lovenox) or fondaparinux (Arixtra) will be given into your abdomen to prevent blood clots after surgery. You will be sent home with this medication, along with instructions about giving yourself the injections. If you are already on warfarin or Plavix, your doctor and pharmacist will talk to you about restarting this medication after surgery.

Hospital Care

Immediately after surgery, you are able to drink liquids and will be on a diet consisting of gelatin, broth and water. By evening, most patients are able to eat a regular dinner.

Lab tests will be administered to determine that you are healing properly. Lab tests typically occur between 4-5 a.m., before your doctor visits you in the hospital each morning.

Vital Signs
Nursing aides will check your vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, oxygen level, pulse) every 4 hours after surgery for at least the first 48 hours. The frequency of checking vital signs will decrease as you progress during your hospital stay.

Breathing Exercises
The ability to breathe deeply is necessary for your lungs to remain clear and to avoid complications like pneumonia. The incentive spirometry device helps you take deep breaths. Nurses or respiratory therapists will provide you with assistance in learning how to use the device.

Breathing exercises should be conducted every hour while you are awake.

Avoiding Falls and Complications
Due to your recent surgery, you are at an increased risk for falls immediately after surgery and for a few days. This is due to your altered mobility. 

Falls can cause additional injury and complications to your recovery. Your bed alarm will be activated to help alert staff and nurses when you get out of bed so they can help you. 

Do not attempt to stand alone. Nurses, aides and therapists will use a gait belt to help you when you are up, in addition to a walking device for safety. It is very important that you request and allow the nurses and staff members to assist you.

Follow movement precautions, as instructed by your physical therapists and surgeon.