Pain medication after hip replacement surgery can be given through an epidural catheter, through an intra-venous line (IV), or by mouth. Postoperative pain is greatest in the first 2 or 3 days after surgery. If you have had epidural anesthesia during surgery, the epidural catheter may be left in place for an additional 24–48 hours. Either a local anes-thetic, morphine or both can be given through the catheter. This provides good pain relief in the immediate postoperative period.
If you have had general anesthesia, then you will most likely require some form of IV medication as you start your recovery. An IV line is left in place and the medication can be given through the line so that you do not require multiple needle sticks. IV medication is stronger than oral medication and provides greater pain relief. It may be given as single doses by your nurse as needed. A common way to give IV pain medication is patient controlled analgesia (PCA), which allows you to give yourself pain medication as you need it.
A PCA line has a small computer that is part of the intravenous pump. The PCA dose is ordered by the surgeon and the machine is set by the nurse. The computer pump controls the medication dose, the time interval between doses, and the maximum hourly dose of medication that can be given. It can also supply a dose of pain medication at a constant rate.
You are given a button at your bedside and press the button when you need pain medication. PCA is safe because the computer will not allow you to overdose. Still it is important that only you and not your family or friends press the PCA button so that you do not get more medication than you need.
The pain medications usually given through a PCA pump are morphine and hydromorphone (Dilaudid). After 2 or 3 days, the pain will be a lot better. You will be able to switch from IV to oral or P.O. pain medication. P.O. comes from the Latin term per os meaning by mouth. You will no longer need the IV line and can start taking pills. Common pain medications given by mouth are Percocet, Dilaudid, Vicodin, and Tylenol No. 3 with Codeine. Side effects from these medications can be fatigue, nausea, or constipation. There can also be allergy or sensitivity.
NSAIDs can be used along with these medications to relieve pain and inflammation after surgery.
As your recovery progresses, you will need less pain medication. You may only need to take a pill after pro-longed activity or when you go to sleep. It is some-times good to take pain medication before the start of a physical therapy session so that you feel better when you are doing your exercises.
Try to limit prescription pain medication as soon as you can. Any of these drugs can become a habit or even an addiction. You can take over-the-counter medication such as aspirin, Tylenol, or ibuprofen if you have any residual pain.