UNC Health Talk

3 Steps to Prepare for Joint Replacement Surgery

If you’re scheduled to have joint replacement surgery, now is a great time to make preparations that will help your recovery.

To learn more, we talked to UNC Health orthopedic surgeon and joint replacement specialist Demetri M. Economedes, DO, and his patient Sally Cameron, who has had a knee and a hip replaced. Here are three steps they recommend you take to prepare for joint replacement surgery.

1. Improve your overall health.

To help minimize risk and ensure long-term success after your procedure, your healthcare team can work with you to help you get healthier before surgery.

For example, surgeons prefer a patient’s body mass index to be 40 or lower to minimize the risk of complications and to make recovery easier. Your healthcare provider can help you improve your nutrition or refer you for weight loss management if needed.

If you smoke, your provider can help you choose a smoking cessation program or prescribe a nicotine patch. If you have high or low blood pressure, your provider can prescribe medication or a treatment plan to make sure it is regulated before surgery.

Finally, if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease, your condition needs to be under control before surgery. Make sure to call any specialists you see, such as cardiologists and endocrinologists, to confirm that they think it is safe for you to undergo an operation. The specialist may want to see you in person.

“We want to optimize the patient medically before surgery so that the patient can have a much larger window for success,” Dr. Economedes says.

2. Go to physical therapy.

While physical therapy following a joint replacement surgery is usually recommended for all patients, your orthopedic surgeon may also recommend physical therapy before surgery, which is called “prehabilitation.”

Undergoing physical therapy before joint replacement surgery helps you strengthen your muscles and joints in advance, which means a fuller, faster recovery afterward.

“I did PT before my surgery and that helped me be as strong as I could be for the surgery and then for the post-surgery recovery,” Cameron says.

3. Attend pre-surgery education classes.

Most orthopedic practices offer pre-surgery education classes. During these classes, you will learn what to expect with your surgery and tips for recovery, including how to prevent falls at home. You’ll also receive medication lists and learn what each medication does and why it’s important for your success.

“There’s no question the more educated the patient is about the process and the more that they and their caregivers understand, the more success they’re going to have following surgery,” Dr. Economedes says.


Do your joints hurt? Talk to your doctor or find one near you.