Is There a Psychological Component to Recovery From Hip Replacement?

If you have an older family member, a hip fracture (broken hip) is one of the most dreaded injuries. Not only is there the physical concern of a broken bone and subsequent surgery, but also the well-studied and documented increased risk of death that goes along with it. However, hip replacement surgery is not an overly risky procedure in and of itself for most and it certainly isn’t a death sentence.

Mindset impacts success after hip replacement according to the orthopedic surgeons at Premier Orthopaedic and Trauma Specialists

With that said, hip replacement is still major surgery that comes with all its inherent risks along with specific risks of the procedure itself. These, of course, will be discussed during consultation prior to surgery. As we age, our general health may also begin to deteriorate and any surgery that requires hospitalization and immobilization becomes that much riskier.

However, in the hands of a qualified and experienced orthopedic surgeon such as those at Premier Orthopaedic, the risks of hip replacement surgery have never been lower, and the results have never been better.

So, Why Are We Told the Risk Is So High?

The greatest non-surgical risk after a hip replacement revolves around the connection between the physical and psychological components of a hip fracture. Of course, there is the pain and recovery period, but the psychological effects can be significant. And patients may suffer in silence. As a result of hip fractures and potential temporary or permanent disability, older patients may be more dependent on their spouses, children or caretakers. Some may need to be transferred to a care facility. Most typically are not able to interact socially the way they would want, at least temporarily, making it harder to feel “normal.”

So, Is There a Psychological Component to Recovery?

The short answer is yes, there is a psychological component to recovery after a hip replacement surgery and it revolves around a willingness and desire to get better. Bear in mind, that many patients can achieve a level of mobility close to their prior abilities. If they have been suffering from hip related issues for a long time, they may even be more able after a hip replacement. However, the process to get there requires motivation and dedication.

Immediately after surgery, patients will need to participate in comprehensive physical therapy to improve the function of their hip. Strengthening exercises are important to regain full range of motion and improve mobility and stability. Nutrition is also an important component of recovery. Protein, for example, helps speed the healing process and improves muscle mass. Proper vitamin and mineral levels such as vitamin D and calcium are critical to maintaining healthy bone mass. Patients should also re-dedicate themselves to losing weight.

But the Patient Needs Motivation

Older patients can often succumb to the anxiety and even depression that accompanies a major injury later in life. They may feel an impending sense of the end of their lives, despite objectively having many good years ahead. This is made all the harder if they are living alone or do not have support in the immediate vicinity. As such, developing that support system is a very important part of the recovery process. We encourage family and friends of those who have suffered a fractured hip to create a comprehensive support team for the several weeks after surgery and ideally, even beyond. This may include:

  • An open line of communication with your orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist and primary care physician to address potential concerns more quickly.
  • A dedication to providing the patient with a well-balanced diet, rich in the vitamins and minerals needed to recover and maintain proper weight.
  • Visits to the patient, if possible, and certainly frequent communication to ensure the patient is on track and stays motivated with their recovery.
  • Someone to motivate the patient to perform their daily exercise between physical therapy visits. This person can participate themselves to improve their own health.
  • A mental health professional, especially in cases where the patient’s abilities have been compromised or their recovery is slower than expected.

Ultimately, through a combination of technology, surgical technique and addressing many psychosocial aspects of recovery, hip replacement surgery in the elderly should not be considered the beginning of the end. Rather, with proper support and a dedication to recovery and health, patients can live a long and healthy life, often with their prior abilities intact.