If you’ve decided to move forward with a joint replacement, you’ve taken your first important step toward a more active and pain-free lifestyle. Your surgeon will provide you with comprehensive, individualized advice on how to prepare for your procedure and what you can expect. However, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. For instance, here are some frequently asked questions about joint replacement surgery that you may want to discuss with your surgeon:
Do I Have Any Nonsurgical Options?
Your surgeon will explain—and encourage you to try—all of your conservative treatment options before you consider a joint replacement. For instance, many patients benefit from weight loss, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and/or injections. In some cases, the resulting improvement is sufficient to eliminate or delay the need for surgery. However, if your pain does not respond to nonsurgical treatment and it is diminishing your quality of life, a joint replacement may be an appropriate next step for you.
Is the Time Right for Me to Have Joint Replacement Surgery?
There is no precise formula for determining the optimal time to have a joint replaced. For most people, the deciding factor is the level of pain they are experiencing and how the pain is impacting their daily life. After thoroughly assessing your overall health, symptoms, anatomy, age, lifestyle, and other factors, your surgeon may suggest surgery if, based on his or her professional judgment, he or she believes it is right for you. Ultimately, though, the decision is yours. To help you decide, you may want to seek a second opinion.
If you don’t feel ready for joint replacement surgery and you opt to put it off for a few months, there may not be any significant consequences. However, osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that gradually—but continually—worsens. Over time, your arthritic joint may become deformed, which can potentially complicate your surgery. Also, your joint may become stiffer and the muscles surrounding it may become weaker, which can make your post-surgical rehabilitation process more challenging.
What Can I Do Beforehand to Increase the Likelihood of a Successful Procedure?
In general, you should try to lose any excess body weight prior to your surgery. This will reduce the weight burden and stress on your new joint as it heals. If you are planning to use crutches or another walking aid during your recovery, it may be helpful to strengthen the muscles in your upper body beforehand.
If you smoke, you should quit as soon as possible—and preferably several months before your surgery. This is important because smoking interferes with your blood circulation and the delivery of oxygen to cells throughout your body, which is essential for proper healing. Smoking also weakens your immune system and therefore increases your risk of post-surgical infection.
You should also compile a complete list of any medications you are currently taking and share that information with your surgeon, who will advise you on which medications you should temporarily stop taking, when to do so, and when to resume.
How Long Will I Need Physical Therapy After Surgery?
Outpatient physical therapy after a total joint replacement typically lasts four to eight weeks. However, everyone heals at a different rate, and your recovery time may be shorter or longer. Make sure you thoroughly understand your personalized rehabilitation schedule, which will likely include a home exercise program that you will continue after you complete your formal physical therapy.
Be sure to closely follow your surgeon’s instructions with regard to when you can resume driving, working, and other activities. Even if you feel fine, do not attempt to do too much too soon. When you’re ready, low-impact fitness activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming are excellent forms of exercise that can help increase the longevity of your joint implant.
Consult With an Experienced & Trusted Surgeon in Lafayette
If you ultimately decide to proceed with joint replacement surgery, you can feel confident entrusting your care to Peter D. Vizzi, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who practices in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Vizzi uses advanced, minimally invasive surgical techniques to treat injuries and conditions that affect the shoulder, knee, or hip joint.
Contact Dr. Vizzi’s office today to request a consultation.