Sunday, June 12, 2011

How Long Will it Take to Recover from a Total Hip Replacement?

Each year around 200,000 people decide to have a hip replacement.1  Most people consider this surgical technique if conservative care such as physical therapy, walking aids (canes and/or walkers), or medications have not helped with pain or functional ability.  Much research has been done on total hip replacements which shows decreased pain and increased ability to perform daily activities after surgery.  The question that always remains in my patients' heads is, “How long will it take to recover?”   Luckily, for the masses of people who have this question, there is new research from the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy that just came out in April of 2011. 

What did the study show us?
The study took 65 patients and followed them through their rehabilitation after total hip replacement.  Recovery was measured by seeing how far the patients could walk in 6 minutes along with self reported problems with daily activities.  Both measures were taken before surgery and at regular periods after the procedure.  The study found that most patients had a rapid recovery in the first 3-4 months after surgery.  After this point recovery continued but at a slower rate for up to a year.

My Advice
If you do not see a speedy recovery in the first 3-4 months after surgery or if you stop to see progress anytime during the first year, you would most likely benefit from a physical therapy evaluation to determine what treatment or additional exercise could help your recovery.  Other past studies have shown decreased hip strength and increased risk of falls up to 2 years after total hip replacement surgery.  The rapid recovery over the first 3-4 months can lead some patients to a false sense of good health and many may stop rehabilitation which can cause problems in the future.  “For more information on rehabilitation following hip replacement, contact your physical therapist specializing in musculoskeletal disorders” (i.e. Hayashida and Associates)

Reference:  1.   J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2011;41(4):240. doi:10.2519/jospt.2011.0502