Choosing whether or not to have orthopaedic surgery is a big decision. Patients and surgeons alike do not decide to proceed with surgery on a whim. If you are facing a joint replacement, need back surgery, or another orthopaedic treatment or arthroscopic procedure, you should visit your doctor prepared with the proper questions.
The following is a list of five important questions to ask before considering orthopaedic surgery:
- Is the pain interfering with my daily functioning? Your daily routine most likely includes walking, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of chairs, the bed, and the car. Do you have pain that persists or is recurring over an extended period of time during your regular routines? Occasional pain is not a concern, but you should seek help if chronic or severe pain is hindering routine functioning. Substantial pain can lead to inactivity which is detrimental to long-term health.
- Have I explored other options?Orthopaedic surgeons opt for treatments that are not invasive, including medication, injections, and/or assistive devices (e.g., canes, walkers), before considering surgery. You should be wary of doctors who do not recommend trying any of these treatments prior to recommending surgery. If these treatments do not work or their effects wear off over time, then a surgeon will decide if you are a good candidate for surgery.
- What kind of surgery is recommended for my condition? Is minimally invasive surgery a possibility? There is no single surgery that is optimal for every individual. While minimally invasive surgery seems like a great choice, it is not ideal for all surgeries. For example, the temporary benefits of a small incision for a joint replacement may be countered by a higher risk of complications. While a full joint replacement is necessary for some people, a partial joint replacement may be a better option for others.
- What risks do I face? How likely is it that I’ll experience complications?There are always potential downsides, including risks and complications, for any surgery. Make sure to ask about the kind of anesthesia you’ll receive and what risks are associated with it. For example, some people need general anesthesia while others may only receive spinal anesthesia.
- What kind of physical therapy and recovery period can I expect following the surgery? Physical therapy is essential for the best possible recovery from orthopaedic surgery. Find out where you will be receiving physical therapy and how often you will attend sessions. If possible, meet with your physical therapist ahead of time. Ask for specific details regarding the recovery period, such as when you will be back on your feet and when you will be able to return to work.