When symptomatic treatment has failed, how do you go about finding a surgeon and preparing for joint replacement surgery of the hip or knee?

When symptomatic treatment has failed, how do you go about finding a surgeon and preparing for joint replacement surgery of the hip or knee?

After you have exhausted symptomatic treatment and your pain is increasing and your function is decreasing, ultimately you may decide to undergo a joint replacement operation for your hip or knee.  You, the patient, are the one who will be the final decision maker, based on advice you receive from your surgeon.  There are many factors that go into deciding to have surgery, and they include your symptoms, your overall health, your fitness level, and radiographic evaluation of your arthritic joint.  Once you have decided to seek help for your arthritic hip or knee, how do you decide which surgeon to choose?  Certainly, your first source of information is your primary care provider.  With today’s online capabilities, searches of physicians can be accomplished in a relatively short order.  You want to make sure that your surgeon is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon and is a person who performs a reasonable volume of joint replacement procedures.  The old adage, practice makes perfect, has some applicability when it comes to surgical procedures.  The higher the volume in general, the lower the complication rate and the better the outcome.  It is useful to talk to fellow patients, see how many procedures a hospital does, and how many joint replacements your particular surgeon does.  Once you have done your homework, you have to make sure you and that surgeon are a good fit.  It is important to go in with questions that you want to ask and make sure that you can relate to that individual.  You should be able to leave your consultation with an orthopedic surgeon having a good understanding of what is wrong with your joint, what are the treatment options available, and what you can expect after surgery, as far as outcome and complications.  Most hospitals have seminars to prepare patients prior to surgery. 

Once you have made the decision to have surgery and have picked a surgeon, it is important to get yourself ready for this upcoming event. You want to improve your overall health and chance of successful outcome by changing some bad habits.  If you smoke, you should stop.  If you drink, you should decrease the amount you drink before surgery.  You want to try and lose weight, eat healthier, and make sure your in as good as shape as possible for surgery.  It is the responsibility of the patient to try and improve their odds of success by maximizing their health. 

When the day of surgery arrives, it is important you follow the instructions of your surgeon and hospital, as far as getting ready.  In my next blog, I will discuss recovering from joint replacement.
—William P. Barrett, M.D.

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