Make sure to remember these 5 questions to ask a doctor for knee replacemnet surgery. The pain has become nearly unbearable. You find yourself sitting or lying down far more than standing or walking, and your medications are no long effective in taking away the pain. After comprehensive x-rays, you realize your knee joint is steadily degenerating. Your doctor has indicated that it may be time to consider knee replacement surgery to replace all or part of your knee joint with an artificial device (prosthesis).
So, off you go to see a specialist who confirms that knee replacement could be a good option for you. After adequate consideration, you decide to have the surgery. Now is the time to begin planning for your procedure. You can start, as I did, with an important question and answer conversation you should have with your orthopedic physician to help prepare for your knee replacement surgery.
Here are some of the most important questions to discuss with your doctor about your procedure:
- What can I do before the surgery so it will be more successful for me? Ask about specific exercises that will strengthen your muscles, especially in the legs, before surgery. Walking with crutches or a walker takes some getting used to, so practicing beforehand can be very helpful. Your doctor may recommend weight loss, if needed, and he/she will certainly bring up stopping cigarettes and alcohol (and offer you the means to do this). You may also be advised to stop the use of some dietary supplements along with certain medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, prescriptions or other arthritis drugs) on or near your surgery date. Know when to be at the hospital, what to bring, the length of the surgery and types of anesthesia used before your procedure. Discuss the number of days you might be in the hospital as well.
- What home preparations are needed before I go to the hospital? Even though I was told I would need help at home after surgery, I didn’t take the instruction seriously enough. Luckily, I have a wonderfully supportive husband. Without his help, I would’ve had a very difficult time at home after surgery. So, seriously, plan for in-home help. Your doctor/physical therapist can assist you to make necessary arrangements ahead of time. You should have a variety of home modifications in place, especially in the bathroom, before surgery. Safety measures and special equipment needs should be carefully discussed and implemented ahead of time. Be clear about what you need to do/not do the night before surgery. Following these instructions is an important part of your overall success.
- What are the potential risks or complications of the surgery? Your physician should be aware of any ongoing medical problems (i.e. high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc) you may have. The possible need for blood transfusion should be discussed. You may be given the choice to save your own blood before the surgery so it can be used during the procedure, if necessary.
- What will the surgery and my hospital stay be like? It’s wise to know about pain-relief choices ahead of time. I had surprisingly little pain immediately after surgery, which probably hastened my healing. Keep pain at bay whenever possible. You may be surprised how soon you’ll be getting out of bed after surgery. It was early the next day for me, which was challenging but not as difficult as I had expected. This will probably be the beginning of physical therapy sessions lasting several weeks. Before your release, you will be given dressings and wound care instructions.
- How long will I use a walker or crutches after I leave the hospital? Find out when you can begin to place more weight on your new joint and resume simple activities. Your doctor/physical therapist will let you know what pain levels to expect as you continue to be physically more active.
The more you know – the more confident you will be. Talking ahead of time to your healthcare professionals will ensure you are well prepared for knee replacement surgery. From my experience, it’s worth the journey.