Some Tips to an Optimal Recovery After Hip, Knee Replacement

If you’re one of the estimated one million Americans having total hip or knee replacement surgery this year, some lifestyle changes might improve your chances of a good outcome, an expert says.

Lose weight safely through diet and exercise before surgery, said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Matthew Abdel. The target body mass index (BMI) — an estimate of body fat based on weight and height — is less than 40, but the closer you can get to a BMI of 25 to 30, the better, added Abdel, who specializes in hip and knee replacement at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Even losing 20 pounds before hip or knee replacement surgery improves outcomes, he said. Here are some of his other suggestions:

  • Stop using cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars and all other nicotine products at least six weeks before having surgery. After surgery, do not use nicotine products.
  • Stop taking narcotic pain medications at least two weeks before surgery.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure you have it under adequate control before surgery. That’s defined as hemoglobin A1C less than 7.5. You also want excellent blood sugar control in the time around surgery.

Some lifestyle changes do not improve outcomes after hip and knee replacement surgeries, Abdel noted. Those include herbal supplements and vitamins, wound creams and electrical stimulation devices.

The jury is still out on whether other measures before surgery help improve outcomes. Among them: physical therapy before hip and knee replacements and post-op physical therapy for knee replacements.

Some patients have weight-loss (bariatric) surgery before hip or knee replacement surgery, but recent research by Abdel and colleagues raises questions about that.

The investigators found these patients had more complications than those who just had joint replacement surgery, regardless of their BMI. The complications included infection and instability and affected the success of the joint replacement surgeries.

“We think it may have something to do with the bariatric patients’ underlying system, such as their gut microbiome and underlying genetic host variation,” Abdel said in a Mayo Clinic news release. “Even though they lost the weight, the soft tissues and underlying collagen status were still of their original nature.”

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more on joint replacement.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, April 26, 2022

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