Your Guide to Orthopedic Surgery:

What to Expect from Joint Replacement

Leading up to Your Procedure

You have been living with joint pain for some time. With the help of an orthopedic surgeon, you’ve decided that you are a candidate for joint replacement. 

Here are some questions you may have before your surgery:

"How do I prepare my home to support my recovery?"

Our orthopedic centers of excellence at Catholic Health offer pre-operative classes for joint replacement patients. These seminars allow patients to hear directly from orthopedic educators and have their questions answered.

These are very thorough presentations, with little left to the imagination for patients and caregivers. Preparing your home to support your recovery is just one of the many topics covered.

Here’s a few example recommendations we give orthopedic patients to prepare their home prior to their surgery:

  • Install night lights in “high traffic” areas, like your bedroom, bathroom, and hallway
  • Temporarily remove throw rugs
  • Prepare meals ahead of time or consider an easy alternative, like meal delivery
  • Have a few close friends and family members available to drive for 3-4 weeks

…and this isn’t a full list! Rest assured, our orthopedic educators and therapists would love to share their tips to make sure your home is safe and accessible following a procedure. Handouts and presentations from our classes are always made available to patients and their loved ones for further review.

"Should I notify any other doctors that I'm having a joint replaced?"

Besides your orthopedic surgeon, it is important to have your primary care doctor evaluate your general health and wellness before you undergo orthopedic surgery. Your doctor may order additional tests or make helpful suggestions as to how you could optimize your current condition prior to the procedure.

If you don’t have a primary care physician, or haven’t seen one in quite some time, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Our orthopedics team can make a recommendation – or you can browse a list of primary care providers by clicking here.

"What items should I bring to pre-admission testing?"

Pre-admission testing will take place at the hospital two weeks prior to your surgery date. Make sure to bring the following:

  • Your insurance card
  • Form of identification, such as your driver’s license or passport
  • All of your medications, including over the counter items, in their original container
  • A completed NYS Health Care Proxy form (

At this appointment, you should receive instructions on which of your medications should be stopped before surgery, and which medications, if any, need to be taken the morning of. If you start taking any new medications within the timeframe between this appointment and your surgery date, please bring those products with you on the day of surgery.

You will be asked questions concerning pain levels and tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. Be honest when answering these questions. Your answers will help us in planning your care.

The Day of Surgery [and the Day Before] 

You may feel butterflies, but there’s nothing to be nervous about! Surround yourself with family members or loved ones in the days leading up to your procedure, and remind yourself – a joint replacement is an investment into your life and future. 

Do's for the Day of Surgery

Above all, it’s important to arrive at the hospital by your scheduled time. You’ll receive a phone call in the days leading up to your procedure that tells you what time to report. Giving yourself enough time the day of will minimize stress and anxiety. Our hospital staff will need to validate that all the correct testing and forms have been completed up until this point.


  • Do eat a well-balanced meal the night before, one than satisfies you without upsetting your stomach
  • Do start the day of surgery like you would any other – wash up, brush your teeth, put on clean clothing
  • Do inform the nurse of any recent changes in medications, and bring those items with you, if there are any
  • Do wear sturdy footwear – ideally sneakers and socks
  • Do bring along personal items that you would need to spend the night (dentures, hearing aids, glasses, inhaler, etc.)
Don'ts for the Day of Surgery


  • Don’t eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery  – unless otherwise instructed
  • Don’t take any medications – unless otherwise instructed
  • Don’t wear contact lenses
  • Don’t apply any cosmetic products in the morning, like makeup, skin or hair products.

Getting Discharged from the Hospital 

In the recovery room after surgery, the focus of the team shifts from the procedure itself to preparing a patient for discharge. As you’re reading this, the comfort of your own home may sound inviting. Believe it or not, some patients say being sent home can feel downright intimidating once you have a brand-new joint. 

"A short hospital stay means I'm going to get pushed out the door!"

Not true.

First, there’s the term “discharge criteria.” These are the goals you need to have accomplished or things you need to have in place before you can be discharged from the hospital following a joint replacement. Who decides if you meet the discharge criteria? It’s a group decision – your doctor, your nurse, the case manager, and most importantly… you!

Secondly, you’ll be comforted to know there are different levels of rehabilitation available within the Catholic Health network. Meaning, you and your loved ones have options if you’re not confident that a home recovery will work best for you.

Some patients will ultimately transition from the hospital to subacute rehab (inpatient setting, allows you to be a short-term resident). And our rehabilitation centers are ready for those individuals! Catholic Health rehab centers have orthopedic units dedicated to joint replacement patients.

"Once I leave the hospital, I'm going to have to figure recovery out on my own."

Each joint replacement patient’s journey is guided by a case manager, who oversees the entire process, but really steps in toward the end of the patient’s hospital stay. Once conversations about discharge planning begin, our case managers really get to work.

Support equipment and available help are both instrumental to a successful recovery. It’s the case manager’s job to ensure each patient feels supported, so they don’t feel like they just have to “figure things out on their own.”

Do you need a walker? Does your home require you to go up stairs? Would subacute rehab be a better option? No, these aren’t questions for you to ponder by yourself. This is the case manager’s job…and they’re quite good at it!

Recovering from Your Joint Replacement Surgery

Would you expect that most orthopedic patients are more concerned with what happens after a joint replacement than the procedure itself?

Well, it makes sense. After all, a joint replacement has become synonymous with its recovery process, even amongst individuals with only a beginner’s level of knowledge about orthopedic surgery. Providers and past patients agree; you cannot understate the importance of recovery for a joint replacement. 

"Won't I be alone the first time I tackle the stairs, car, tub, etc.?"

Our physical therapy gyms are equipped to simulate daily living activities. This means that you can practice going up the stairs, getting in and out of the tub/shower, car, bed…all under the guidance and supervision of a trained physical therapist!

Another option for physical therapy is home care. Rather than your PT taking place in our specialty gyms, our expert therapists come to you – and work with you in the comfort of your home.

"Where do I go for physical therapy?"

During your hospital stay, you’ll notice how quickly the orthopedic providers at Catholic Health make movement part of your recovery. And after you’re discharged back home (or to a subacute rehab facility), we encourage all patients to start physical therapy as soon as possible.

For convenience’s sake, most patients who are discharged home like to try and schedule appointment at a therapy location that is nearby. Fortunately, Catholic Health has physical therapy locations that are located throughout Western New York. Your discharge planner can help you find a therapy location that’s right for you.

To find a list of rehab and therapy locations at Catholic Health, please click here.

"How long before I can...?"

Just like the approach to surgery itself, recovery (and its corresponding timelines) is different for each person. For this reason, it can be difficult to estimate just “how long” it’ll be before you can return to everyday activities. Some factors that may affect your recovery time:

  • Your age
  • Your physical health
  • Which procedure was performed (which joint, whether it was a partial or full replacement)
  • How committed you are to your rehab

These are some everyday duties and activities that most patients have concerns about:

Return to work

This is dependent on the type of work you do. Unsurprisingly, if you work a physical job that includes some degree of mobility, your recovery time may be longer. In some cases, patients can return to work in as little as four weeks, while with others, it may be as long as three months.

Your company’s policies regarding time off and taking a leave of absence are valuable to look into in the meantime. If some component of remote work was adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, this may be helpful for patients recovering at home.

However, you do need to give your body time to rest and heal. Rushing your return to work can put the success of your recovery in jeopardy.


Your surgeon may be instrumental in helping you decide when it’s safe to drive following a joint replacement. Of course, you should never operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of pain medication. We recommend that joint replacement patients reach out to a few family members, friends, and loved ones to be on standby for driving duties – typically for 3-4 weeks following surgery.

Strenuous activities

Strenuous activities are not recommended during the initial recovery time due to pain and swelling. In particular, total hip patients will need to avoid positions that may cause them to dislocate their hip.

Your physical therapist will be a great resource to guide these return-to-activity decisions. Light, low-impact movements, such as walking or stretching, may be recommended early on in your recovery. More vigorous activities, like weight-lifting, running, and intimacy may require a longer timeline.

Have additional questions?

Do you want to know more about what the post-operative journey following a joint replacement is like?  We’re happy to answer questions, for you or a loved one’s piece of mind.

Call Us to Be Connected with an Ortho Specialist
(716) 706-2111

Call Us to Be Connected with an Ortho Specialist
(716) 706-2111