Whether by choice or necessity, having hip replacement surgery can change so much about your daily life that you wouldn’t even think about before having the operation. One of those things that might not come to the forefront of your mind before having a hip replacement is your toilet seat.
Most of us use the washroom multiple times a day without any second thought as to how high the toilet seat is or if we would have trouble getting back into a standing position after we’re done using it.
After having hip replacement surgery, one of the suggestions your medical team will give you (probably) is to replace your toilet seat to a raised seat, if you don’t already have one.
You might find yourself asking if this is something you really need to do, or if it’s just one of those things the doctors say will make your life easier.
Here’s what you need to consider about having a raised toilet seat, and why you should get one after your hip replacement surgery.
So, Why Is It on the List of Things Your Doctor Says You Need?
Having a complete hip replacement – whether you fell and needed emergency surgery or it’s been planned for a year – is major surgery and it’s very traumatic on your body.
While this procedure used to require weeks of bed rest and immobility, doctors now have patients walking and bearing weight on their hip the very next day after surgery.
So a lot has changed in terms of how this surgery happens and is performed, but it is still a surgery that your body needs to recover from.
Part of this recovery is the transition from the hospital (and medical care team) to your home, where you probably don’t have the exact same level of care available, and more independence is required.
Included in this transition is the discussion around how your home functions, and the assistive devices you might need to make your life that much easier while you’re at home so that you can heal properly and don’t hurt yourself.
One of those assistive devices your doctors will talk about is a raised toilet seat.
Do I Really Need the Raised Toilet Seat Though?
Some patients will say that they’re short enough that they don’t require the help of a raised toilet seat, while others will maintain that their toilet is at a height high enough already and they don’t need anything higher.
No matter how tall you are (or your toilet is), anyone who has had hip replacement surgery will benefit from getting the raised toilet seat. Here’s why:
Your hip joints are the largest joints in your body, and they perform crucial functions for your movement abilities. The surgeon is replacing the entire joint (in most cases) – the joint where you’ve been bearing weight for years and is imperative to your ability to walk, sit and stand properly.
This large joint in your body is surrounded by some pretty big muscle tissues, and with the surgery being done it’s understandable that there will be some damage to the surrounding tissues.
This trauma will cause some noticeable weakness in your muscles. The muscles affected most often are those responsible for your ability to go from a sitting to a standing position. When your muscles are weaker, you will be much more likely to lose your balance and fall (again, maybe).
Having the raised toilet seat means there is less distance you have to move your body from standing to sitting (and sitting to standing) so the risk is minimized and you require much less muscle strength to go that distance.
Depending on how your surgeon approached your hip replacement, you may have multiple incisions. If you do, and you have a posterior incision then your surgeon may require you to maintain a 90-degree hip flexion.
This means you can’t bend past 90-degrees (as you would to bend down and pick something up off the floor). In some cases, using a lower toilet would require the patient to flex past 90-degrees so it may cause more damage than helping to heal.
Having a raised toilet seat in your bathroom will opens up the hip angle by lowering your knees downward while you’re transferring to the toilet.
Reduce Risk for Revision
When patients attempt to (or do) make movements that break the precautions their surgical team has laid out they increase the risk of popping the new hip joint out of its socket.
When the new hip has been damaged, it can only be fixed with an additional surgery – and that comes with even more risks for further complications like infections, more scares, further tissue damage and longer healing times.
By following the directions of your medical team – including using a toilet seat raised and how long do you have to use it– you will greatly reduce your risk for revision and help with the healing process after your surgery of hip replacement.
Safety After Surgery
Many of us are very familiar with the layout of our homes – we could probably even walk our way through it in the dark if we needed to. However, after surgery, your doctor will probably send you home with a prescription or two for pain medication.
These medications will be very effective for managing your pain, but they might make you feel a little groggy and might even put you off balance. since it does require some balance – especially if you are using it in the middle of the night.
How High Should the Toilet Seat Be Raised?
When installing an assistive device like this, there are two things that need to be considered: the person’s height and the height of the toilet seat itself.
Typically, a raised toilet seat will be about 3 inches thick, but you can purchase ones that are thicker – especially if your height is considerably taller than average.
If you have questions about exactly how high the raised toilet seat should be for you once you go home, it’s important to consult with your physical and occupational therapy teams to make sure you have the right information.
They will be able to tell you what will work for you and how high you need to set it for optimal use during this healing time.
How to Avoid Risk of Falling When Transferring to and From the Toilet After Hip Replacement Surgery
After having hip replacement surgery, you will likely have to change how you complete everyday tasks. Consider protecting your hip with hip protector.
If you’re worried about being able to go to the bathroom on your own once you go home, here are a few tips for making it easier once you go home. Also, know the precautions on using raised toilet seat.
Be Slow and Intentional
Sometimes when we have to go to the bathroom, we kind of rush it because – well – we have to go! If possible, don’t rush the transfer to the toilet and be very intentional with your steps and your motions.
Taking your time to get to the bathroom, positioning yourself appropriately, and then transferring to the toilet will ensure you minimize the risk of falling.
Remember Where Your Clothes Are
While the raised toilet seat will help keep your hip at the appropriate angle while you’re using the toilet, many people will subconsciously reach down to pick up their pants when they are done and they don’t even remember that they’re supposed to not bend past 90-degrees.
Try to keep a reacher stick or a dressing stick handy so that you can easily bring your pants back up without having to completely bend over to grab them. Having adaptive clothing for someone with limited mobility would also be a great idea.
Alternatively, you could try to keep your pants around your knees while using the toilet so that you don’t have to completely bend over when you’re done.
When you’re done, it’s ok to scoot forward a little bit on the toilet seat to help you stand up.
Use the armrests on the toilet seat to move forward towards the edge of the toilet seat. Doing this lowers your knees and that makes it much easier to pull yourself into a standing position.
Avoid Completely Leaning on the Walker
While a walker is there to help support you while you’re healing from surgery, it’s important that you avoid putting all your body weight on the walker when moving from sitting to standing, or vice versa.
Purchasing a toilet seat which is raised with handrails or armrests on the sides is a great way to help with the transfer and make sure you can keep your balance throughout the process.
As you back up towards the toilet, keep going until you feel the material of the seat on the back of your legs, then reach back to grab onto the handrails and lower yourself down.
Healing from a hip replacement may seem like a daunting task, especially when daily tasks that used to be really easy aren’t anymore. With a little patience and some assistive devices such as walker, crutches, and a special chair for hip replacement patients, you will be healed and back to your regular activities before you know it.
It’s important to make sure you reduce the risk of revision surgeries by following your doctor’s instructions and keeping up with the physical therapy.
If you have questions about your transition to home from the hospital, talk to your surgical and physical therapy teams to make sure you are comfortable with being at home after surgery.