Ten steps to prepare for hip or knee replacement surgery

Written by: Mr William Bartlett
Edited by: Bronwen Griffiths

Earlier, safer and easier recovery has been made possible by technological and surgical advancements. The key to a successful recovery is careful preparation. The following steps are what Mr William Bartlett, a leading orthopaedic surgeon, considers to be essential when getting ready for hip or knee replacement surgery.

1. Do your research

The more you know ahead of time, the more informed your treatment decisions will be. When you are doing any research online, it is important to remain sceptical. You should also research how experienced your surgeon is, as surgeries performed by less experienced surgeons could result in a less successful procedure. More than numbers though, choosing a surgeon should also take into account availability, location and bedside manner.

Once you have chosen a surgeon, it is important to understand what the surgery entails, what the risks are and what alternative treatments are as well. If you are still uncertain, it is advised that you have another consultation or seek a second opinion.

2. Taking exercise

Exercising in the run up to surgery will greatly facilitate your recovery. Non-impact activities such as swimming and cycling are great for increasing fitness and muscle function. In the last few weeks before surgery, it is recommended that you do some strengthening exercises as well to improve your arm and core strength. To maintain motivation, some people find it helpful to use technology to track progress, and there are plenty of phone apps that can do this.

3. Get healthy

It is really important to get as healthy as possible before surgery. You can do so by:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Reducing alcohol intake (one standard-sized drink per day)
  • A healthy, balanced diet
  • Consider iron and vitamin supplements

4. Lose weight

If you are overweight, losing some weight can make recovery easier. Even though exercise is challenging when you have reduced mobility, steps two and three above should help with this. However, it is important not to resort to a ‘starvation’ diet. For patients who are very overweight, it can be advised to delay surgery, or indeed to consider weight—loss surgeries prior to having a hip or knee replacement.

5. Review long-term health conditions

Ensure any long-term health conditions are well-controlled. Conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions or raised blood pressure should be looked at and treated before surgery.

6. Find a treatment buddy

Your friend or loved one should be on hand to provide practical assistance and help you keep organised and motivated. They should attend appointments with you, ask questions you have overlooked, take notes and generally support you through the process. Ideally they will be able to take you home from hospital and be on hand in the first couple of weeks after surgery to help you with practical matters at home. Sometimes, if you do not have someone to help you, it can be helpful to arrange a short stay in a rehabilitation centre.

7. Inform work

The amount of time you will need to take off work varies, and it can depend on personal motivation, level of fitness, the nature of the work and how the patient makes their way to their job. It will usually be necessary to take up to two months off work and after this to make a phased return.

8. Arrange your home

In the weeks leading up to your surgery, it is really helpful to get organised at home. Some measures to do so are:

  • To stock-up on food
  • De-clutter the house
  • Remove trip hazards
  • Re-organise kitchen cupboards so that commonly used items are easily accessible
  • An armchair should be easily accessible, and sofas should be avoided initially
  • There are also certain gadgets that can make life easier, such as raised toilet seats
  • Install some handrails in the bathroom or on the stairs
  • Make sure your bed is fitted with clean sheets and fresh towels are ready

9. Last minute arrangements

If you have a new illness before surgery, let the medical team know immediately. Before coming to surgery, you should pack a bag with all the essentials you would need for a few days away from home, but avoid bringing valuables. You should bring loose, comfortable clothes, slip-on shoes and a good book! Before surgery you would have been advised to stop certain medications and avoid taking herbal medicines.

10. Coming in for surgery

On the day of surgery you should:

  • Take a shower
  • Not shave or apply perfumes or lotions
  • 6 hours before surgery, stop eating, but stay hydrated with water
  • 2 hours before surgery you should have nothing to eat or drink

There are many different ways to prepare for hip or knee replacement surgery, but the most important thing is to consider how the operation will affect you and what you can do to affect your chances of having a smooth, easy transition from the hospital to back home.


If you are considering hip or knee replacement surgery and would like to learn more, make an appointment with a specialist.

By Mr William Bartlett
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr William Bartlett is an experienced consultant orthopaedic surgeon located in central London. His specialist interest is in robotic surgery and the surgical and non-operative management of hip complaints. 

Mr Bartlett trained in and around the capital and undertook his fellowship at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. During this time, and following visitations to centres of excellence in central Europe and North America, he developed his interest in hip and knee replacement surgery, together with joint preserving techniques.

He sees a diverse spectrum of patients, ranging from teenagers to nonagenarians, with lifestyles ranging from sedentary to former Olympians. Non-surgical treatment options will always be thoroughly explored initially, often through working closely with physiotherapists, osteopaths, radiologists, sports physicians and rheumatologists.

When surgery is needed, Mr Bartlett will offer each patient a highly personalised approach, ensuring that they remain firmly at the centre of the decision-making. As many of his patients are young and active, his practice has evolved to use modern bone preserving techniques and minimally invasive surgical approaches. Particular interests include the use of 3D computer planned surgery, custom-made prostheses and partial joint replacement surgery.

Mr Bartlett leads the enhanced recovery program within his NHS hospital and is committed to ensuring that each patient recovers from surgery as quickly, safely and fully as possible. He has performed over 2,000 hip procedures and is currently conducting research into the performance of newly introduced hip replacement prostheses.

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