No one wants to undergo surgery, but if you need surgery for a shoulder, knee or other injury, you want to ensure that you have a successful outcome. When you are in the office with an orthopedic surgeon in the days before the procedure, there are some important questions you can ask in order to understand what to expect in the weeks after surgery. Some of these questions to ask before surgery are worth researching outside of the doctor’s visit as well.
Should I choose this surgeon and have him or her perform my surgery?
This is ideally a decision to make before you ever see a doctor for your injury, but it is still important. Ask friends who performed their surgeries. Would they recommend him or her again? If the surgeon has a blog or participates in social media, do you feel comfortable with the way he or she explains medical information. And how comfortable do you feel when you talk to the surgeon in the office?
What are the surgical and non-surgical options?
For most injuries, surgery is usually not the only option. Surgery might be the best option for a number of injuries, but it worthwhile to know if modifying activities, medications, braces, or more can be tried first. Also inquire about the potential risks of avoiding surgery.
Are there any risks of delaying surgery?
Occasionally for work or school reasons, you can’t undergo surgery right away. Can waiting a few weeks or months cause any further damage?
What does the procedure entail?
Discuss the nature of the procedure with your surgeon.
What kind of restrictions will I likely face after surgery?
Will you be allowed to put weight on that leg? Will you be allowed to use your arm, or will you need to keep your arm in a sling? Can you drive? If you aren’t sure, and if the answer will affect your ability to perform daily activities or work or school activities, ask before the surgery.
When can I go back to work or school?
Often a timeframe for returning to work depends on the nature of the job and its physical demands. Also, you might be able to go back sooner if your employer will let you work at your desk. The same questions apply to students who could miss time from school. Will you need help navigating the halls or carrying your books? These are important considerations before surgery.
What type of anesthesia will I need for surgery?
Is general anesthesia required, or can surgery be done with sedation and some form of nerve block? Sometimes anesthesia options depend on medical conditions of the patient, so these are good questions for both the surgeon and the anesthesiologist.
How long does full recovery take?
Rarely are patients “as good as new” within the first few days after surgery, but many patients expect immediate results. How long does it take for the pain or the swelling to resolve? When can you expect full motion and strength?
When can I likely return to sports and exercise?
Many athletic people are determined to return to sports or a certain form of exercise. It is important to know roughly how long to expect it will take to return to that activity. When will those activities be safe, and are there options for exercise before you reach that point? Often surgeons want to help you return to your desired activities as soon as possible, but it is important that you aren’t potentially harming your repair or delaying your overall recovery.