You Said “Yes” to Joint Replacement Surgery. Now What?

After putting it off for some time, you finally decided to schedule your joint replacement surgery. Your research pointed you to a surgeon experienced with joint preservation techniques who’s deemed you a good candidate. Compared to traditional total joint replacement, anatomic total joint replacement has several advantages:

  • It is minimally invasive
  • It conserves as much of your healthy bone and joint structure as possible
  • Less time is required on the operating table
  • Recovery times are shorter

Now that the decision is made, what’s next? What should you expect in the months and weeks leading up to surgery? What can you do to prepare?

Carefully consider timing: Think about scheduling your surgery toward the end of the calendar year. That’s when people often find themselves with money left in their Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and their annual insurance deductibles met. Preparing for joint surgery can be a wise use of your FSA funds, for things like over-the-counter pain medications or working with a nutritionist on a weight-loss plan.

You may also want to do your rehab or physical therapy in the winter when the weather does not permit you to be outside or as active as during the warmer months. Be conservative when calculating your recovery time so you don’t end up missing a significant life event (many of which, such as weddings, take place in the spring), if rehab takes longer than anticipated. You may also  need some assistance in the early days post-surgery, so make sure the timing coordinates with your helpers’ schedules.

Ask questions: Knowledge is power, and the more you know about your procedure, the better equipped you’ll be to handle challenges. Many practices have nurses specializing in patient education who will walk you through the procedure and what to expect. They will also discuss anticipated recovery timelines, including initial activity restrictions, pain management, and the rehabilitation process. Ask about pre-surgical and post-op exercises. They are particularly helpful for strengthening your core if you’re going to be temporarily using crutches or a walker. Take notes and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if anything is unclear. Consider bringing a family member or friend to the appointment, ideally someone who will be helping post-surgery.

Expect a pre-surgical workup in some cases: To clear you for surgery, especially if you have other health issues, your primary care provider may conduct a general medical exam about a month prior to your procedure, assessing your general health and anesthesia risk. The exam may include bloodwork and other tests. Shortly before the procedure, it’s typical to meet with the anesthesiologist to discuss what to expect. 

Prepare your body: Use your surgery as incentive to lose any extra pounds that put undue stress on your joints. Eat healthy, start the exercise regimen you’ve been delaying, and if you smoke, quit or cut back. A World Health Organization study found that smokers who kick the habit four or more weeks before surgery were at lower risk for complications and had better outcomes at the six-month mark. Don’t drink alcohol for at least 48 hours before your procedure. You’ll likely be asked to shower with a germ-killing cleanser the night before and to refrain from eating or drinking anything after midnight.

Pack thoughtfully for the hospital if you’re staying overnight or longer: Though with Anika’s joint preservation surgeries, patients return home the same day, if you happen to spend the night at the hospital post-surgery,your bag could include toiletries, slippers, socks, a bathrobe, reading material, your medication list (including doses and frequency), insurance information, and comfortable clothing and slip-on shoes for discharge. Leave valuables such as jewelry, cash, and credit cards at home.

The prospect of having surgery can feel daunting. But with careful planning, you can take much of the stress out of the process and even accelerate your recovery. Stay tuned for a future blog about how to prepare for the post-operative period.

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