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Fall 2011

A step in the right direction

Date: October 3, 2011

Cross section image of knee

Rapid recovery program enhances life after joint replacement surgery.

The decision to have joint replacement surgery can seem nearly as agonizing as those painful and aching joints. But the good news for bad hips and knees: Recovery from joint replacement surgery is probably much quicker than many might think.

Johns Hopkins’ rapid recovery program for hip replacement puts healing on a fast track, says orthopedic surgeon Simon Mears. Whereas a typical hospital stay after hip replacement can range from three to 10 days, with the rapid recovery program, “you’re in the hospital for a day or two,” Mears says, “and we’ll get you up right away and moving so you can go home and, ideally, start outpatient therapy the next week.”

Afterward, patients can return to work in as early as two weeks, resume daily 30-minute walks in four to six weeks, and get back on the golf course or play other sports in two to three months, Mears says.

The secret for this success? The first step is for patients to meet with a physical therapist before surgery so they know what to expect and to begin “prehabilitation.” Mears says that building strength in the muscles surrounding the damaged joint will not only help patients regain function more quickly but also will help relieve pain and give them a good idea of some of the exercises they will perform after surgery. Procedures are usually scheduled early in the day so patients can stand up and walk the day of the surgery, with nerve blocks providing pain relief.

“On the day after that,” Mears says, “patients will do more therapy, climb some stairs, and hopefully go home.”


Moving Statistics

  • Musculoskeletal symptoms—such as pain, aches, weakness, and limited movement—were the No. 1 reason for physician visits in 2008, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
  • With Americans living longer than ever, the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons estimates there may be a need for 500,000 hip replacements and 3 million knee replacements in the U.S. each year by 2030.
  • About 90 to 95 percent of hip and knee replacement patients have good to excellent results, even 10 years after surgery.