Planning for orthopaedic surgery? Communication is key.

If surgery is in the near future for you or a loved one, understanding exactly what will happen on surgery day (and the days that follow) will help you best prepare and ensure an easier — and speedier — recovery. No matter the type of surgery you’re facing, a few basics apply. Learn what to expect and do before, during and after your orthopaedic procedure.

Understand the Ins and Outs of Your Surgery

At ProMedica, our orthopaedic surgery team works hard to communicate with you every step of the way. With written materials, virtual and in-person patient education classes (like Total Joint Preoperative University) and opportunities for you to meet with your surgeon prior to surgery day, we offer a number of ways to help you feel comfortable and confident going into your procedure.

“Patients need to fully understand their orthopaedic problem, and their surgeon should help,” says Anil Gupta, MD, MBA, an orthopaedic surgeon with ProMedica Physicians. “Here, we’ll help you understand your condition, prognosis, procedure and recovery — and will be there for you throughout the entire process.”

We recommend that you and your surgeon discuss:

  • Preparation.
  • Surgery day.
  • Post-operative care.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Pain management.

“Some patients have had previous surgery, preexisting conditions like fibromyalgia or have been on medication to manage pain from other issues,” says Dr. Gupta. “And so, it’s important to have a post-surgical pain management plan in place prior to surgery.”

Prepare Yourself for Surgery and Your Home for Recovery

The instructions you receive before your surgery will depend on your condition and unique circumstances — and that means they can look slightly different for every patient.

If you are in relatively good health, you may only need to stop food and liquids, usually at midnight, before you come to the hospital. And you may also be asked to stop certain medications. Make sure you follow the specific instructions given by your care team, and to ask questions if you aren’t clear on any of the details.

If you have additional health conditions, such as a history of heart attacks, stroke or diabetes, you may need:

  • Additional tests prior to surgery, including an EKG, chest X-ray or blood tests.
  • An approval from your primary care provider, even if these health concerns are unrelated to your orthopaedic condition or injury.
  • Assistance with quitting smoking (you should stop at least 4-6 weeks before surgery since smokers have higher rates of orthopaedic surgery failure compared to nonsmokers.

If you need additional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to your surgical care team — and should you need help to stop smoking, talk to your doctor about ProMedica’s Tobacco Cessation program.

As part of your preparations, you should also decide on a caregiver to help you both at the hospital and when you return home. A trusted family member or friend at your side will go a long way in helping you:

  • Get around the house as needed.
  • Keep track of follow-up appointments and recommended next steps.
  • Maintain your personal hygiene.
  • Remember your doctor’s instructions and details about how your surgery went.
  • Stay on track with medications.

Finally, you will want to prepare your home. Consider things like where it will be easiest for you to rest or sleep and have a clear path to the kitchen and restroom. You may also want to plan several no-prep meals to have on hand as you regain your strength and mobility.

Learn What to Expect During Your Surgery or Hospital Stay

Unless your surgeon says otherwise, you’ll probably have surgery and go home the same day. “There’s a trend toward accelerated recovery and shortened hospital stays, even with total hip, knee, and shoulder replacements,” Dr. Gupta explains, “And patients do well with that.” But every patient is different, and every surgical case is unique. Your care team will make sure you know when you can expect to return home.

What to Bring

Regardless of whether your procedure is an outpatient procedure or requires a hospital stay, the list of items you’ll need to bring is largely the same. These items include:

  • Advance directive (if you have one).
  • Comfortable clothes (easy to get on and off, and loose-fitting).
  • Identification (such as driver’s license or state-issued ID).
  • Insurance information.
  • Required payment.
  • Someone you know to drive you to and from the hospital (use of taxis or ride-hailing services aren’t permitted).

And, although your medications are listed in your electronic health record, it’s a good idea to bring a list of your current prescriptions.

If an overnight stay is required as part of your surgical plan, you may also want to add these items to your list:

  • Entertainment (books, puzzles, magazines, tablets, computers).
  • Glasses (it may be easier not to worry with your contacts).
  • Hygiene products (hair care, deodorant, skin care, dental care).
  • Pajamas (loose-fitting is best), undergarments, robe and non-slip socks or slippers.
  • Phone (and don’t forget your charger!) .
  • Snack items (unless you will be on a restricted diet).

You may also want to consider leaving any valuable items, such as cash, jewelry and computers at home since these items will be left unattended at times. In some cases, lockers and lockable bedside tables are available. Please ask your care team prior to bringing these valuables and be sure that your items will fit in any lockable spaces.

Know How to Get the Best Outcome

It’s natural to talk with friends, family and sometimes even strangers about your upcoming surgery. And it’s likely you’ll run across someone who’s had a similar procedure. But while it’s okay to listen to their experiences, it’s important to realize that outcomes vary widely from person to person. Your recovery, pain levels and response to physical therapy may be very different from theirs.

“It’s so important to work closely with your care team. You, your family, your doctor and your therapist all need to be on the same page” says Dr. Gupta. That’s what will ensure the very best outcome.”

If you think you may be ready for joint replacement surgery, ProMedica’s orthopaedic experts are here to help you stop hurting and start living.

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