joint replacement surgery

Planning for Osteoarthritis Surgery Day

Christina Lasich, MD Health Pro February 23, 2012
  • Your surgery day is approaching fast; do you know what to expect? You may not know what to expect or what to plan. Now is the time to think about the plans that need to be arranged, the help that needs to be in place and the changes that will be taking place. No matter what kind of surgery is scheduled, surgery is a big deal, probably bigger than you realize. Arriving at the hospital at 7 in the morning is difficult enough, but no one can really fully anticipate the pain, adaptation and recovery that come standard with any operation.


    Any good surgeon is going to prepare his/her patient for the post-surgical pain. The medications that will be needed after surgery should be prescribed and filled before the surgery day. On the big day, all of the hospital staff will be asking about pain. You need to know how to communicate with them using the pain scale. You will need to speak up if you are feeling bad. Pain control is important because reduces stays in the hospital and improves the chances of surgical success. The sooner you can start moving around, the sooner you can go home. Once home, tell your spouse or helper if your pain is intolerable. Your assistant can help you make phone calls, get medication and ease your suffering. Pain control is paramount to a good surgery day.


    Another aspect of surgery day that is not often anticipated is the amount of adaptation required after surgery. If your surgery is extensive enough, you might not be able to use a hand, arm or leg for days or weeks. All of your normal ways of doing things like dressing, bathing, driving and eating might need to be changed temporarily. Simple everyday life might get much more complicated for you and your loved one. Around the house, you could need more help. At work, you might need a different set of responsibilities or a lighter work load. Try to line up friends, family members and co-workers before your surgery day so that they will be ready to help you. It helps if you know how to ask for help too. All of these adaptations will most likely be temporary. Anticipating the need to adapt is all part of planning for surgery day.


    Although your normal routines might need to be changed following surgery, please also realize that recovering from surgery is a process in and of itself. Just waking up from the anesthesia can be quite an ordeal. As soon as the surgery drapes come off, you will be whisked into a recovery area. Depending on the extensiveness of the surgery, you will either be heading home within a couple of hours or you might be staying in the hospital overnight.  Where ever you are located after surgery, you should expect to feel quite lightheaded and cloudy for 12 to 24 hours after general anesthesia. Whether you are recovering at home or in the hospital, someone will need to stay close by in order to keep you from falling and to help you meet your basic needs for food, water and trips to the bathroom. You might also need a wheelchair, a walker or some grab bars. Try to anticipate what you will need to recover before you start recovering.


    Over the coming days, after you have regained your senses, you will need to focus your attention on wound care and swelling control. The health care providers will verbally instruct you about post-surgical care and will eventually send you home with written instructions. Go over all the instructions when you do get home just to make sure you are doing everything correctly. If you have any questions at all, call your surgeon. Recovery should go smoothly if you know what to expect and what to do.


    In fact, your surgery day and the days immediately following surgery will go more smoothly if you realize that Pain control is paramount, Adaptation is necessary and Recovery is to be expected. That is PAR for the course when one has surgery on arthritic joints. You cannot expect or plan for everything, but a little proper prior planning can go a long ways on your surgery day.