If your doctor has recommended joint replacement, there’s some information you should gather before setting a date for surgery. Whether your surgery is to replace your hip or knee, you should first get a second opinion from an experienced, fellowship trained joint replacement surgeon to help you determine if surgery is the most appropriate option. In addition, there are several questions you should ask before deciding to undergo joint replacement.
13 questions you should ask
Getting the answers to these key questions, from both the physician who recommended surgery and any specialists you see to seek a second opinion can help you gather the information you need to make an informed decision about joint replacement.
- Are there other treatment options I can try before surgery, such as pain management, physical therapy, or lifestyle changes like losing weight and increasing exercise? If I try another type of treatment first, will it mean that I cannot have joint replacement surgery if that treatment fails?
- What are the short term and long term potential risks if I decide not to have the surgery?
- What are the most significant and most frequent complications of this type of surgery and how often do they occur? What do you do to minimize the risk of these complications?
- How many joint replacement surgeries do you do each year and what is your complication rate?
- Am I at an increased risk for any of these complications due other health conditions I’ve been diagnosed with?
- How likely is this surgery to relieve my pain and increase my ability to take part in regular activities for patients who are my age and have a similar health history? Will there be activities that I may not be able to return to after surgery?
- Are there different surgical approaches? What are the pros and cons of the different approaches? How do recovery time and success rate compare with traditional open surgery?
- Do you have any special training in this type of procedure, including minimally invasive or robotic surgical approaches to joint replacement?
- How long a hospital stay is required and what type of physical therapy is required before and after the surgery?
- How much pain will I experience after joint replacement surgery and how will it be managed while I’m in the hospital and after I go home?
- How long will my new joint last with regular use taking part in my usual work and recreational activities? Because of my age, do you expect that I will have to have this joint replaced a second time in the future? What steps can I take to make my new joint last as long as possible?
- Are there steps I can take before surgery to improve my outcome, such as exercises to build strength or losing weight to decrease stress on my joints?
- Before surgery, are there any medications or supplements that I should stop taking?
It can also be helpful to learn as much about the current clinical evidence and your treatment options before you make a decision about joint replacement. Working with a health advisor can give you access to evidence-based resources and help interpreting this often complex information.