Sometimes, a surgical intervention for osteoarthritis may be the best option to reduce pain and improve function. However, before undergoing any surgery, you should be sure to do your due diligence. You wouldn't buy a house without asking around, so why would you not give your own body the same benefit?
Explore all of your options thoroughly, and make sure that you are comfortable that you have found the best surgeon for you. There are no guarantees with any surgery, but one thing you can't do after a surgery is go back in time and undo it. So get it done right the first time.
Some patients express a reluctance to ask "too many questions" for fear of "annoying" their doctor. If you have found a good surgeon, he or she won't be annoyed or upset to answer your questions. And he or she won't be threatened if and when you ask for a second opinion.
If you are considering surgery for your arthritis pain, here are 14 questions* you should ask your potential surgeon before surgery:
1. What are the risks and potential complications of this procedure?
2. How many of these procedures have you done?
3. How would you define a successful operation for this procedure? Will I be pain-free after the procedure?
4. What is your success rate for this procedure?
5. What complications have you seen with this procedure?
6. What is your complication rate for this procedure? How does your complication rate compare with other doctors?
7. What alternative treatments are available?
8. If I have one of the alternative treatments and it doesn't work, can I still get this surgery later?
9. If I have this surgery now, can I still have the other treatments later? Does this surgery close the door to other kinds of treatment?
10. If you were in my situation, would you have this procedure done?
11. If you were having this procedure done, which doctor would you choose to do it? Can I have his or her numbers so I can get a second opinion?
12. How long is the recovery process?
13. What will the recovery process involve?
14. When will I be able to go back to work and exercise?
*These questions were taken from my book, The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (Diamedica, 2008).