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Joint Replacement Surgery


A joint that is damaged by injury or disease can be removed and replaced with a new one. There are times when only a part of the joint needs to be replaced or repaired. Your healthcare provider may try other treatments before joint replacement surgery, such as steroid injections or medicines. Pain relief and increased function are the goals of joint replacement. Knee, hip, and shoulder joints are the most common joints replaced. Joints in your elbows, fingers, and ankles can also be repaired or replaced.


Call 911 if:

  • You have a seizure.

Seek immediate care if:

  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You feel like you are going to faint.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your incision comes apart.
  • Your incision is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You cannot walk or move your joint, or the limb is numb.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever over 101.5°F.
  • You have trouble moving or bending your joint.
  • You have increased pain and swelling in your joint, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have back pain or lower leg pain when you bend your foot upwards.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Pain medicine may be given to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Antibiotics may be given to decrease the risk of a bacterial infection.
  • Anticoagulants are a type of blood thinner medicine that helps prevent blood clots. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. These medicines may cause you to bleed or bruise more easily.
    • Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth and a soft toothbrush. If you shave, use an electric razor. Avoid activities that can cause bruising or bleeding.
    • Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you take because many medicines cannot be used with anticoagulants. Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
    • You will need regular blood tests so your healthcare provider can decide how much medicine you need. Take anticoagulants exactly as directed. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
    • If you take warfarin, some foods can change how your blood clots. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables, broccoli, grapes, and other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you take warfarin.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to return to have your wound checked and stitches, staples, or drain removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


  • Know your limits. It may be harmful to completely straighten or bend your joint. You may not be able to put pressure on your joint. You may not be able to drive. Ask your healthcare providers about your limits.
  • Do exercises as directed. Ask your healthcare provider what exercises would be safe for you. Daily stretching and exercise will increase circulation and decrease your risk for blood clots.
  • Care for your wound as directed. Ask how and when to change your bandage and clean your wound.
  • Use ice as directed. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel, and place it on the surgery area for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
  • Use support devices. A cane, walker, crutches, or raised toilet seat will help decrease your risk of falling. A brace, sling, or splint may be used to help support the area where you had surgery.
  • Remove hazards in your home. Remove throw rugs and objects that can increase your risk of falling.
  • Tell all healthcare providers about your joint replacement surgery. You may need to have antibiotics before any procedure to prevent an infection of your new joint. Carry a card that says that you have metal in your joint. The metal in your new joint may set off metal detectors. You will not be able to have an MRI with metal in your joint.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Joint Replacement Surgery (Discharge Care)

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Further information

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