What to Expect with Outpatient Total Joint Replacement

by David Miller, M.D.

What to Expect with Outpatient Total Joint Replacement

Outpatient total joint replacement has many benefits for the patient, including ease of the surgery, lower cost, quicker recovery time, and often better pain relief. The most common outpatient joint replacements are knee and hip replacements.  

With outpatient surgery, you avoid hospital recovery time by going home the same day as the surgery. You have the surgery, recover from anesthesia, see a therapist who makes sure you are up and moving, and then your loved ones can take you home. Overall, it is much quicker and easier than a traditional joint replacement with a hospital stay. It costs much less because insurance covers more of the surgery due to its high success rate. The recovery time is much shorter and moving around the same day lowers the chances of post-op complications such as blood clots or pneumonia. When you come back in for a follow-up two weeks after surgery, you are usually cleared to drive.  

Who is the best outpatient total joint replacement patient? 

The patients best suited for outpatient surgeries are those who do not have underlying health concerns. If your heart and lungs are healthy then there is not a huge need for you to stay in the hospital after the operation. If you have health issues like severe diabetes or very high blood pressure, you may be better suited for inpatient surgery. If you have had a steroid injection to the affected area due to pain, you would need to wait about three months to have surgery. There is a body mass index (BMI) cutoff for outpatient surgery. BMI is a height and weight ratio and it should be lower than the cutoff to reduce risk of complications during surgery.  

Surgery Details 

Before the surgery, the doctor, nurses, and anesthesiologist will meet with the patient to go over the details of the surgery. Once it is time for the surgery, your family member will wait in the waiting room or out in their car. The surgery itself takes less than an hour. The short time period helps reduce post-operative complications or infections. 

Recovery Details 

Outpatient physical therapy is recommended after hip and knee outpatient surgery. Studies have shown that patients do better in an outpatient therapy office because it allows the therapists to have all the equipment they need. Hip replacements tend to require less therapy than knee replacements. With a total knee replacement, usually physical therapy will continue until the patient can get their range of motion to 120 degrees. The patient’s range of motion often depends on the range before surgery. It can take up to eight months of physical therapy before the range of motion is back to normal. The initial pain should be gone in two weeks but there can be some residual pain while the joint heals for up to a year.  

After surgery and recovery, most patients should try to avoid high-impact activities to elongate the life of the replaced joint. If the patient’s surgery goes well and they follow all the steps of recovery, a knee or hip replacement can last for 15-20 years.  

Learn more about outpatient total joint replacements