joint replacement surgery

Planning for Osteoarthritis Surgery Day

Christina Lasich, MD Health Pro February 23, 2012
  • Your surgery day is approaching fast, but do you really know what to expect?

     

    You may not, but now is the time to arrange the necessary plans, secure your help and prepare for the changes that will occur. No matter what kind of surgery it is, having an operation is a big deal--probably bigger than you realize. In fact, it’s difficult to fully anticipate the pain, adaptation and recovery that will follow surgery of any sort.  

     

    Any good surgeon is going to prepare his/her patient for post-surgical pain. The medications that will be needed after surgery should be prescribed and filled before the surgery day. Afterward, you will be asked many times about your pain. You need to know how to communicate using the pain scale.

     

    Most importantly, you can’t be reluctant to speak up if you are feeling bad. Pain control is important because it can reduce how long you stay in the hospital and improves the chances of surgical success. The sooner you can start moving around, the sooner you can go home.

     

    And once you do go home, you must not hesitate to tell your spouse or helper if your pain is intolerable. They 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 not often anticipated is the amount of adaptation required after the operation. 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, such as dressing, bathing, driving and eating might need to be altered temporarily.

     

    Simple everyday life might get much more complicated for both you and your loved ones. Around the house, you might need more help. At work, you might need a different set of responsibilities or a lighter workload. Try to line up friends, family members and co-workers before your surgery day so that they will be ready to assist you. It helps if you know how to ask for help too. The good thing is that 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 routine might need to be changed following surgery, you also need to realize that recovering from surgery itself is no small matter. Just waking up from the anesthesia can be 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 then either head home within a couple of hours or you might be staying in the hospital overnight.  Wherever you end up 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 need to recover before you try to start recovering.

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    Once the post-surgery fuzziness fades, you will need to focus your attention on wound care and swelling control. Your healthcare providers will instruct you about post-surgical care and will send you home with written instructions. Review the instructions when you get home to make sure you are doing everything correctly. If you have any questions, call your surgeon.

     

    Recovery should go smoothly if you know what to expect and what to do about it. In fact, your surgery day and the days following it will go more smoothly if you realize that Pain control is paramount, Adaptation is necessary and Recovery is to be anticipated. That is PAR for the course when you have surgery on arthritic joints.

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