Preparing for the Challenges of a Joint Replacement

Not long ago, doctors advised patients to wait as long as possible before deciding to have a knee or hip replacement. But today’s state-of-the-art replacement joints, and patients who insist on an active lifestyle, have led to  younger patients opting for joint replacement surgery more than ever before.

Jeff Pierson, MD, orthopedic surgeon with the Center for Hip & Knee Surgery, practices at the Franciscan St. Francis Health campus in Carmel. “Preparing yourself mentally and physically for surgery will go a long way toward easing your anxiety,” said Dr. Pierson. He offers a number of practical tips for maintaining a sense of calm and control when anticipating joint replacement surgery.

Make sure you’re comfortable with your surgeon. If you are not 100 percent comfortable with your surgeon, consider finding another. Your surgeon should be highly qualified to do the procedure. Ask if you can talk to a former patient to get feedback.

Arm yourself with knowledge. Ask your surgeon (and your surgeon’s staff) about the type of implant you’ll be receiving, the anesthesia you will need, how pain will be controlled, how long you will be in the hospital and what to expect during recovery.

Think positively. Keep your mind focused on the end result of surgery — a significant reduction in pain, increased mobility and an improved quality of life.

Schedule your surgery well in advance. You will need time to take care of routine medical check-ups and other appointments; make legal arrangements (such as durable power of attorney) and make arrangements with friends or family to stay with you after surgery.

Compile relevant information. As you prepare for surgery, your doctor will need information about your medical history, medications, allergies and insurance. Prepare a folder with all relevant information to ensure you don’t have to search for it each time it’s requested.

Prepare your home. After surgery, getting around your home will be cumbersome. Consider moving your bed to the first floor of your home. Prepare a couple of weeks’ worth of meals and store them in the freezer. In the bathroom, consider installing a raised toilet seat, grab handle in the tub and a shower chair. Remove loose rugs in hallways where you could be at risk for tripping.

Visit the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to apply for a temporary disabled parking permit. Obtain an application from your surgeon’s office to take to the BMV.

Get your body ready for game day. Being physically fit at the time of surgery will help you recover more quickly. If you smoke or drink heavily, make a serious effort to quit. Exercise regularly, focusing on your upper-body strength (which you’ll be using to support yourself on crutches or a walker).

Practice your post-surgery exercises. Become familiar with the exercises you’ll need to do after surgery— while you still have full control and power in your legs. This will make doing them during your recovery less awkward and overwhelming.

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