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Swelling after a hip replacement: what’s normal–and what’s not

If you are new to the world of hip replacement surgeries, you might have some questions and concerns about what happens after the procedure takes place. Before your surgery, we will do our best to communicate what you should expect, as well as how you can prepare for the days and weeks that follow your operation. Many post-operative conditions will depend on the type of surgery you had, as well as the extent of your damage. The way your body responds to trauma through surgery will also played a part. No matter, there are things you can do to prepare in advance, like stocking up on food, drinks, and toiletries; making your shower and toilet easily accessible; and avoiding stairs or steep inclines until your physical therapist says you are ready to tackle them.

Another thing you can do is be aware of what your body might look and feel like following a procedure. This can help keep your mind at ease if you are unsure if something is normal, and can also help you identify if you need to reach out to a doctor for a consultation.

Despite advance warnings, many of my patients are surprised to see just how much the surgical area swells up. For many, this swelling lasts for months following the procedure, and it can occur in places beyond the actual surgical site. Although moderate swelling is completely normal, it is important that patients take note of any newly developed or extreme swelling as this may be a sign of a developing blood clot and should be evaluated by a professional quickly to avoid more extensive damage. Remember that swelling in your thigh, calf, ankle, or foot is also a warning sign of a blood clot.

Fortunately, there are ways to lessen any normal swelling that does take place. Compression stockings can be helpful because they reduce the diameter of veins and increase blood flow. Be certain to talk with your physician before wearing them, and ensure that you are carefully following directions for their use. Another tried-and-true technique is elevating your leg and applying ice to where the swelling is occurring. Be sure to protect your skin by placing a buffer, like a blanket or towel, between your body and the ice itself. As you treat your swelling, you can catch up on reading, your favorite shows, or even crafts like knitting and crocheting.

If you are preparing to travel and your itinerary includes air travel, note that pressure changes and long bouts of sitting can increase your level of swelling, especially immediately following surgery. If a trip is in your future, ask us about special recommendations to keep in mind during your flight.

It’s important to know that swelling, while unfortunate, is simply part of the healing process. If you think that yours is out of control or you find it to be particularly bothersome, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.

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