By Kathy Hubbard
To the Chinese, this is the year of the pig. In my circle, this is the year of the knee. And, you can add hips and backs to that as well, often to the same people. My sister-in-law had knee replacement surgery mid-summer and her hip replaced the first of December. Shortly after her surgery, my brother was told that he would need hip replacement surgery as well.
However, my brother is actually having good success with physical therapy and is able to manage his pain without opioids, so has decided to postpone the knife. It made me wonder, how do people make the decision to have surgery? What do the experts advise?
“The goal of orthopaedic treatment is to relieve pain and restore function. In planning your treatment your doctor will consider many things, including your age, activity level, and general health,” OrthoInfo, the patient education site of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says. “If nonsurgical treatment methods, such as medication and physical therapy, do not relieve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery.”
When talking to the medico they suggest starting the conversation with the question, “Why are you recommending this procedure? Are there alternatives? What are the benefits of this procedure in terms of pain relief, functioning/mobility?”
You should ask about how successful this procedure has been for other people who are in a similar situation as you. And, you probably want to know if this is going to solve the problem or if there will be more surgeries in your future.
Another question you might ask is, how long do artificial joints last? A medical center in Arizona named Honor Health says, “Advances in medical technologies — including the prosthetic materials used in total and partial hip, knee, elbow and shoulder joints — continue to extend the life expectancy of artificial joints.
“Generally speaking, today’s prosthetic devices can last upwards of 15-20 years. Factors that can impact the durability of prosthetics include your activity level, overall health, weight and whether you have arthritis.”
One of the best questions to ask is what will happen if I don’t have the surgery now? Will there be a time when I won’t be a candidate for this surgery? Will my daily activities acerbate the problem to the point that future surgery won’t have a chance to be successful?
I know four local people who’ve had knee replacements in the last six months. All of them are satisfied with the outcome, but they’ve all had different healing experiences. Two had surgery days apart. At week two, one had too much discomfort to walk across the room while the other was out blowing snow and thinking about skiing.
So, it’s not surprising that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to medical procedures. But, you can ask what the typical recovery time is. You can ask when you’ll be able to return to work, or when you will be able to drive your car. You can ask whether or not you’ll need physical therapy and if so, for how long?
“While the goal of surgery is to restore function and get you moving without pain, there are usually some limitations after orthopedic surgery. Talk to your surgeon about realistic expectations after surgery,” Honor Health advises.
Knowing that there are always risks with any surgery, you should ask if there are risks of complications and exactly what they might be. If you think the risk outweighs the benefit, there’s certainly nothing wrong with seeking a second opinion. As a matter of fact, I’d endorse that before any surgery.
You’ll come up with a multitude of other questions, so make a list of them before you meet with the surgeon to make sure they all get answered. It’s also not a bad idea to take a friend or family member along to catch the words that you might miss.
Speaking of family and friends, they can care for you better if you’re close to home. Bonner General Orthopedics can be reached at 208-263-8597 and Performance Therapy Services phone number is 208-265-3325.
And finally, but not the least important, check with your healthcare insurance provider to see what will be covered and what won’t be. You don’t want to break your back lifting the medical bills.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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