Explore effective pain management and complication prevention after hip replacement surgery. Learn about costs in Ireland and options abroad for a safer recovery.

If your hip pain and discomfort continue to worsen despite treatment, your doctor may consider hip replacement surgery. Performed millions of times annually, it's a standard, routine procedure for correcting hip discomfort.

Though it's considered extremely safe, as with all surgeries, it does carry some risks. Patients can expect to spend several months recovering from the operation. During this time, minimising the risk of complications and managing any pain is critical.

We cover how to manage postoperative pain, the most common complications, and how to reduce your risk of complications below.

In this guide:

  • Pain Management After Hip Replacement Surgery
  • Complications of Hip Replacement Surgery
  • Minimising the Risk of Hip Replacement Complications

Pain Management After Hip Replacement Surgery

After surgery, it's normal to have some pain. Your medical team will monitor your pain levels, assessing how much medication you need. Initially, the general or regional anaesthesia will mask your pain. However, as it wears off, pain and swelling will occur.

Your pain levels will depend on the type of hip replacement you underwent. The more invasive, the greater the pain levels. Other factors, such as patient age, individual threshold, and sleep, also play a role.

Common pain management options post-hip replacement surgery include:

  • Ibuprofen: This nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) is effective at reducing inflammation and relieving pain, though it is generally less potent than opioids.
  • Naproxen: Similar to ibuprofen, naproxen is beneficial for the long-term management of pain and inflammation.
  • Celecoxib: As a COX-2 inhibitor, celecoxib provides pain relief and carries a lower risk of stomach bleeding compared to other NSAIDs.
  • Paracetamol: Often used for mild to moderate pain, paracetamol is frequently combined with opioids to enhance pain management.

Although some pain is common during the postoperative period, your medical team should keep it to a minimum. Physical therapy usually begins soon after recovery, and too much pain can impede your progress. As such, certain specialised drugs and opioids may also be used:

  • Morphine: A robust opioid utilised for managing intense postoperative pain.
  • Oxycodone: A strong opioid effective at controlling moderate to severe pain following surgery.
  • Hydrocodone: Typically paired with acetaminophen, this medication is used for pain relief during the early postoperative phase.
  • Lidocaine (Topical): A local anaesthetic applied to numb the surgical area and reduce localised pain.
  • Bupivacaine (Nerve Block): Employed in regional anaesthesia during knee surgery to effectively manage pain.
  • Gabapentin: While primarily prescribed for neuropathic pain, gabapentin is also sometimes utilised to aid recovery from knee surgery.

In addition to pain relief, ice packs and cold compression can help reduce swelling and inflammation in the hip joint.

Complications of Hip Replacement Surgery

The complication rate after hip replacement surgery is exceedingly low. Most patients will experience no negative ramifications from the procedure. However, around 2% of patients will develop serious complications such as a joint infection. Even so, these infections are treated successfully most of the time.

That being said, complications can still occur. So, what are the risks? And what should you look for?

  • Infection: The surgical area becomes infected, with symptoms including fever, increased redness, warmth, swelling around the hip, and possibly pus drainage.
  • Blood Clots (Deep Vein Thrombosis): Blood clots can form in the veins of the leg, causing swelling, pain, and redness, typically in the leg.
  • Pulmonary Embolism: A blood clot from the leg travels to the lungs, leading to symptoms such as sudden shortness of breath, chest pain (which may worsen with deep breaths), and sometimes coughing up blood.
  • Hip Dislocation: The hip joint becomes dislocated, or the ball of the new joint comes out of the socket. Symptoms often include severe hip pain, inability to move the leg, and the leg may appear shorter on the affected side.
  • Fracture: The bone around the new implant may break during or after surgery, indicated by pain in the hip area, swelling, and difficulty moving the leg.
  • Loosening of the Implant: The implant does not remain securely attached to the bone, manifesting as increased pain, instability, and difficulty walking.
  • Leg Length Inequality: The surgery may result in one leg being longer or shorter than the other, leading to discomfort and gait issues.
  • Nerve Damage: Nerves in the vicinity of the surgery may be injured, resulting in numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg or foot.

Minimising the Risk of Hip Replacement Complications

Hip replacement complications can be avoided (or minimised) with the right care. There's a reason why Lithuanian hospitals boast the 2nd lowest complication rates for orthopaedic procedures.

What should be done?

Infection control is of paramount importance. Minimising the exposure to dangerous pathogens will reduce the risk of joint infections. Surgical teams should use the best sterile techniques during surgery, and postoperatively, the wound bandages should be frequently changed.

Patients should be routinely assessed for early signs of infection – especially individuals at greater risk, such as diabetics.

Blood clot prevention reduces the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism. It involves the use of compression stockings to prevent blood clot formation. Hip replacement surgery carries a high risk of blood clots due to the patient's immobility, allowing the blood to pool in the lower limbs.

Physical therapy is proven to improve outcomes postoperatively. Patients should be mobilised early, increasing strength, reducing stiffness, and also lowering the risk of blood clots and infection.

Choose Kardiolita Hospital for Hip Replacement Surgery Abroad

As a Lithuania hospital, Kardiolita Hospital is proud of its exceptionally low rate of complications and exemplary post-surgical care. Alongside our affordable surgery (approximately a tenth of the average cost in Ireland), we also provide a specific rehabilitation program.

However, as standard, patients will receive several days of recovery care, including pain management and physical therapy. Send us an enquiry to learn more.