What To Expect: Joint Replacement Surgery
By Kent Woo, MD, as published in Savannah Health Perspective in June, 2014
Are you considering joint replacement surgery in 2014? You’re certainly not alone. In fact, new research from earlier this year shows that more than 7 million Americans have artificial knees and hips. For some candidates, these procedures can significantly improve quality of life by enhancing mobility, easing pain, and generally allowing for a more active life. Joint replacement surgery has become increasingly common and safer, as technological advancements allow surgeons to make smaller incisions, reduce the risk of complications, and shorten recovery time.
Orthopedic surgeons perform joint replacement surgeries every day, but despite the frequency of the procedures, many patients might not know what to expect when preparing for the surgery, or which questions to ask.
You should always consult with your physician regarding your specific case and how to best prepare for your procedure. A few suggestions I can offer are to:
Get informed: Joint replacement can sound a little intimidating. Take the time to ease your concerns by fully understanding the surgery. Set aside some time with your physician to discuss the procedure and eliminate any misconceptions or worries that you might have.
Compile medical information: You will likely be asked to fill out some paperwork on your medical history and insurance. Your doctor’s office should provide you with all needed forms but it can ease stress to prepare the following in advance:
- Designate a family member or friend to be your primary contact with the physician.
- Provide your full medical history to your surgeon, including physicians you currently see, medical conditions, current medications and dosages, allergies and previous operations.
- If you have insurance, be sure to bring your insurance card to your first appointment or know your policy information.
Get in surgery shape: Making small changes in your lifestyle in the weeks prior to surgery can make a significant difference in recovery time and overall success of the surgery. Your physician will also outline ways to get your body ready for surgery in the days leading up to your procedure, which may include:
- Undergoing medical evaluations weeks before your surgery, assessing your general health and taking relevant tests, including blood tests, urine samples and X-rays
- Cutting down or quitting smoking. Smoking changes your blood flow, which can delay the healing process and slow down your overall recovery.
- Scheduling appointments with your anesthesiologist and surgeon to review your procedure and address any last-minute questions.
- Performing pre-surgical exercises, including specific suggestions for hip and knee replacements and way to strengthen your limbs.
- Not drinking alcohol for at least 48 hours prior to surgery.
- Last-minute preparations the day before surgery, including taking a shower or bath before surgery, not shaving the area of the surgery, not wearing makeup or nail polish, not eating or drinking, and preparing a hospital bag.
Plan for your homecoming: You can prepare for a speedier recovery by planning ahead. Follow these guidelines:
- Arrange for someone to take you home and stay with you up to several days after the procedure, or consider staying at a specialized rehabilitation center.
- Plan for meals before the surgery by freezing large batches of food that can easily be reheated.
- Arrange your home in advance to have a comfortable place to recover when you return from the hospital, including lowering hard-to-reach items, removing any items on the floor that could trip you or cause mobility problems, and modifying your bathroom for accessibility.
- If applicable, apply for a temporary disabled parking permit at your home and/or workplace through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
After surgery: The speed of recovery depends on many factors and may vary by procedure and for each patient.
- Generally patients can stand or begin walking the day of surgery.
- There may be temporary pain in the area of the surgery, which can be alleviated by medication prescribed by your physician.
- Physical therapy typically begins the day after surgery and will help recover mobility in the joint.
For more information on joint replacements and other orthopedic procedures, Dr. Woo may be reached at Optim Orthopedics at 210 DeRenne Ave, Savannah, GA 31405.