After Surgery

The typical length of stay in hospital after joint replacement surgery is one to two days. During your stay in hospital, our team will work with you to make sure you are ready to return safely home. Sometimes family members are asked to come in so they can be shown how to assist you in the activities you need to do to return home.

During your stay, our team will teach and review:

Returning Home

Once you have completed all the activities needed for you to return home and your surgeon is satisfied with the overall outcome of your surgery, you will be discharged with:

  • A prescription for pain medication
  • If applicable, a staple remover and information regarding removal of staples two weeks after surgery
  • An appointment to see your surgeon again in six weeks
  • A referral to see a physiotherapist in your community
  • Wallet card identifying you as having had joint replacement surgery

Things to Watch

If you experience any of the following symptoms or have any concerns, you should call your surgeon:

  • Increased pain in calf or thigh of either leg
  • Increased pain in leg or leg appears shorter
  • Increased swelling, tenderness or redness in either leg
  • Temperature above 38°C taken at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking
  • Increased drainage from the incision, redness or opening of incision edges
  • Increased difficulty with walking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • If you develop sudden shortness of breath or chest pain/tightness, go to the nearest Emergency Department

Your Incision

Remember: Wash your hands before and after caring for you incision

  • Look at the incision every other day and watch for any redness, drainage or opening of the edges
  • Change the dressing every other day or when necessary and replace it with a new sterile bandage
  • NO lotions, ointments or creams should be applied over or around the incision area until you have your six week follow-up appointment with your surgeon
  • NO baths, pools or hot tubs for six weeks
  • If you have an incision with staples, they will be removed two weeks after surgery by either your family doctor or your surgeon
  • Check with your surgeon when you may begin showering at home

Prevention of Swelling

Edema or swelling occurs as a natural response to surgery and tissue injury. Swelling tends to increase in the operated leg when sitting or standing but should decrease over time and should be less upon waking in the morning. Increased redness around the incision should not be present.

To minimize swelling, apply ice to your hip or knee before and/or after doing your exercises. It is also a good idea to apply ice to your hip or knee between exercise sessions for the first one to two weeks you are home. Elevating your leg slightly when lying down will also help with reducing swelling.

It is not uncommon for patients to have swelling in the leg for several months after surgery. If you have questions about swelling, please consult with your physiotherapist or surgeon.


Constipation is defined as having fewer bowel movements than normal, or hard stools that require straining to pass. 

Why do I get constipated?

There are many reasons why you get constipated. Some of them are specific to your recent surgical experience: 

  • Medication for pain or nausea (ex. narcotics)
  • Dehydration
  • Not enough fibre in your diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being bed-ridden or chair bound

Your body needs three things for your bowels to work properly:

  1. Fibre
  2. Fluids
  3. Peristalsis (muscle contractions in the bowel)

How can I prevent constipation?

Here are some helpful hints to help relieve or prevent constipation:

  • Know your normal bowel movement habits; remember that normal bowel habits vary.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that is high in fibre.
  • Drink plenty of liquids during the day.
  • Exercise regularly and go for walks.
  • Do not avoid the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Set aside time after breakfast or dinner for undisturbed visits to the toilet.

How can I manage constipation?

The most effective way to manage constipation is to increase your fibre intake. It is important to include some fibre with every meal and snack. Make sure you increase your fibre intake gradually to reduce bloating and gas. You will also need to drink more fluids:

  • Sprinkle All Bran® or All Bran Buds® (1-2 tablespoons), wheat bran (1-2 teaspoons) or psyllium husk (1-2 teaspoons) into pudding, yogurt, oatmeal, applesauce, or on top of your favourite cold cereal.  Add to casseroles, soups, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, baked goods etc.
  • Add one rounded teaspoon of Metamucil® or Benefibre™ to beverages.
  • Cut up some fresh fruit to put on your breakfast cereal or have it for a snack.
  • Include one or two vegetables with meals and snacks.
  • Eat small frequent meals and snacks.
  • Avoid skipping meals; eat meals and snacks at regular times each day.
  • Try 20 minutes of moderate activity after eating a meal.
  • Include foods that are natural laxatives like prunes, prune juice, rhubarb and papaya.
  • Limit fast food, processed foods, high fat foods and large servings of meat or cheese.

Fluids to choose:

  • Plenty of water (1-1/2 litres per day), prune juice, fruit juices with pulp, hot beverages (decaf tea, herbal tea, broth and soup). Caffeine products help move the bowels but can also lead to dehydration. Water is a better choice.

For a printable version of this information, view the Constipation PDF.

If you continue to have difficulties with constipation, please consult your family physician or pharmacist for advice.