Preventing complications after hip fracture surgery
As with any major surgical procedure, post-operative complications can occur following hip fracture surgery. Below is a list of some of the more common complications that can occur after hip fracture surgery. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive.
This condition, which includes two interrelated conditions – deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism – occurs when blood clots are formed in the large veins of the legs. In some cases, these clots can become dislodged from the veins, travel through the circulatory system, and become stuck in the critical arteries of the lungs. This scenario, called a pulmonary embolism, is a serious medical condition.
The following steps may be taken by you and your physician to avoid or prevent thrombosis:
- Blood-thinning medication (anticoagulants, aspirin)
- Elastic stockings (TED hose)
- Foot elevation to prevent swelling
- Foot and ankle exercises to optimize blood flow.
- Pneumatic devices placed on the feet to improve circulation.
IMPORTANT: If you develop swelling, redness, pain and/or tenderness in the calf muscle, report these symptoms immediately to your physician.
Infections occur in a small percentage of patients undergoing hip fracture surgery. Unfortunately, infections can occur even when every effort is made to prevent them.
The following steps may help to minimize the risk of post-operative infections:
- Closely monitor the incision and immediately report signs of redness, swelling, tenderness, drainage, foul odor, increasing pain or persistent fever.
- Always wash your hands before and after handling your incision site, especially when the sutures are still in place.
A possible side effect of surgery is the development of pneumonia.
The following steps may help minimize this risk:
- Deep breathing exercises: A simple analogy to illustrate proper deep breathing is to: “smell the roses…and blow out the candles.” In other words, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth at a slow and controlled rate. A simple rule of thumb may be to perform these deep breathing exercises 8 – 10 times every waking hour.
- Coughing: This activity helps to loosen the secretions in your lungs and excrete them from your pulmonary system.
- Incentive spirometer: This simple device gives you visual feedback while you perform your deep breathing exercises. Your nurse or respiratory therapist will demonstrate proper technique.