The First 24 Hours

Once the operation is over, someone from the Care Team will talk to any family members or friends who are waiting for news. In most hospitals, you will be sent to a recovery area where you will be observed closely for between 30 and 60 minutes. If all is well, you will then be moved to a hospital room.

What to expect when you wake up 

The routine may vary between hospitals, but here’s what’s likely to occur:

  • You will find yourself attached to an intravenous (IV) line which is dripping fluid, antibiotics, pain medication and blood-thinning drugs into your body.
  • You may be getting oxygen by mask or through tiny tubes in your nostrils.
  • You may find that a thin tube or catheter has been inserted in your bladder so you can urinate without going to the bathroom or using a bed-pan.
  • There may be a surgical drain in your incision connected to a drainage bottle.
  • There will be a gauze dressing or bandage over your incision. Expect the incision after knee replacement to be about 15 cm (six inches); the incision after hip replacement will be about 20 cm (eight inches) long, running down the side of your hip. 

The drain, catheter, oxygen and IV line will be disconnected over the next day or two, depending on how well you are doing.

You will probably start feeling some discomfort in your new joint when you wake up. This is completely normal. Let your Care Team know if you are in pain so they can adjust your medication.

For the rest of the day your nurses will watch you closely, helping you change positions every two hours, making sure your pain is managed and that you are resting comfortably. They will encourage you to do Ankle pumps every two hours to promote better blood flow to both your legs. This may reduce your risk of developing a blood clot .

Depending on when your surgery was scheduled, the Care Team will encourage you to sit up on the side of your bed later that day. If all goes well, you can expect to start getting up on your feet – with help – the next day.

ImportantIMPORTANT: Be patient with yourself in the first days after your joint replacement surgery. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns with your Care Team. This is probably the first time you’ve had joint replacement surgery. But your surgeon, nurses and therapists have helped many patients just like you to get better and return to their normal lives.