Generally, a hip replacement surgery doesn't require a long hospital stay once the surgeon completes the procedure. You go home the same day as your operation to recover. But if you do experience complications, such as extensive swelling in your hip, your orthopedic surgeon may keep you in the hospital a little longer to treat your problem. To help you understand why a longer hospital stay is necessary, learn how swelling in your surgical site affects you.
What Happens If Your Surgical Site Swells Up With Too Much Fluid?
Mild to moderate swelling or edema is a common problem in surgical sites and is something your surgeon may expect to happen. However, if your hip fills up with too much fluid, you may have a problem like a compromised immune system. Sometimes, the tissues around a surgical incision fill up with body fluids because your body is fighting off a cold, bacterial infection or some other type of illness. If you undergo hip surgery without fully recovering from your illness, your immune system may try to protect the new surgical site or hip replacement from the germs produced by your illness.
In order to keep the bacteria and viruses in the body from infecting your hip, the immune system activates the lymphatic system, which includes your spleen and lymph nodes. The spleen and lymph nodes release a great number of white blood cells called leukocytes into your bloodstream and lymph vessels.
The leukocytes seek out and eradicate the foreign objects as they find them in the body — including in your newly repaired hipbone. In addition, the leukocytes travel through the blood and lymph vessels in a clear fluid called lymph fluid. If the white blood cells and lymph fluid attack the germs that threaten to infect your hip, the tissues of your hip expand or swell up.
Below are symptoms you might notice first:
- Pain in your hip that occurs when you lift your leg to change positions in bed
- Redness in the skin over your hipbone and around your the sutures in your hip
- Swelling in the thigh area that may spread to your leg, ankle, foot, and toes
Although you may notice the signs above, you might not notice the swelling in your hip right away. Your hip may already have some slight signs of swelling from the surgery, and you might think that the edema is normal and will go away with time. But as the fluids continue to build up, the hip will appear puffier or larger to you. After a few hours, the skin over your hipbone appears "weepy" or leaky. The excess lymph fluids drain out of your surgical site, as well as out of the pores of your skin. Keep in mind that the leaking fluids may happen with or without touching your skin.
To find out why you have the swelling, your orthopedic surgeon keeps you in the hospital and orders tests to see if the swelling comes from the surgery, your illness or both.
How Does Your Orthopedic Surgeon Treat Your Swollen Hip?
The surgeon will order a blood test to look for excess white blood cells, as well as bacteria and other foreign organisms, in your body. If your test comes back positive for infectious organisms, the surgeon may prescribe antibiotics to get rid of them.
Your orthopedic surgeon will keep you in the hospital overnight to monitor your leg, hip and infection. You'll need to elevate your swollen leg and hip on a pillow or a special cushion to keep the blood circulation in your lower body flowing. Excess fluids can place pressure on the blood vessels of your legs until they collapse from the strain.
In the morning or some time later, the surgeon checks your blood again to see if the infection is under control. He or she also examines your leg and hip to see if the swelling has gone down. If you show signs of improvement, you may go home in a day or so. If you still have the same problems, or if they seem worse, you may need to stay in the hospital several days more for treatment and monitoring.
The best way to avoid swelling and other complications during and after your hip surgery is to tell your surgeon about any illnesses you have right away. The surgeon can take precautions, such as treating your illness and waiting until you feel better, before moving forward with your surgery.
If you have questions about your hip replacement surgery and swelling, contact your orthopedic surgeon for more details or visit a website like http://www.towncenterorthopaedics.com.