If your orthopedic specialist has recommended surgery, you likely have many questions. It is completely normal to have questions – in fact, it is encouraged! It’s important for you to feel comfortable about your surgical procedure before it happens, and that you know what you need to do to ensure a successful recovery.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about orthopedic surgeries, along with answers to help you understand your procedure and what happens afterwards. After all, knowledge really does empower patients to manage their conditions and experience the best possible therapeutic outcomes.
Will I Be Hospitalized for My Surgery?
This depends on the kind of surgery you need and the state of your overall health. Some procedures are same day, involving small incisions with minimal sedation, and you can go home directly afterwards. These are generally referred to as outpatient surgeries. Other surgeries, such as open-heart surgeries or major abdominal surgeries are more complex. They require overnight stays in the hospital before you can go home, so they are known as inpatient surgeries.
Thanks to advances in anesthesia and implant technology in the past 20 years, joint replacements can be performed as outpatient procedures at some clinics, like EMU Health’s Ambulatory Surgery Center.
At your consultation, your surgeon will discuss with you whether you will need to stay in the hospital, for how long, and what you should do to prepare for your surgery and recovery.
What Kind of Anesthesia Will I Need?
All orthopedic surgeries require some kind of anesthesia. The type and method of administration depend on how complex your procedure is and how long it takes.
Options for anesthesia include local injection (i.e. for simple foot surgeries), which numbs a small area of the body. Surgeries that take a long time or involve limb revision or joint replacements typically require general anesthesia, which puts you in a sleep-like state for a period of time so that you don’t feel pain during the surgery. If the surgery is performed on the lower extremity or hip, your surgeon may choose neuraxial anesthesia like an epidural or spinal injection.
Your orthopedic surgeon and anesthesiologist will outline your anesthesia options before your surgery, so you know what to expect.
How Will I Manage Pain Afterwards?
Many people successfully manage postoperative pain with over-the-counter or prescription-strength pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Others require a short, monitored course of opioid pain relievers, such as oxycodone.
Nerve blocks are also a popular option for postoperative pain relief. This kind of medication numbs the nerves in the surgical site so that you have pain relief for a few days after surgery. Nerve blocks can be administered during surgery and work on desensitizing the area so that less anesthesia may be required during your surgery. Your orthopedic surgeon can determine whether a nerve block is appropriate for you.
Will I Need Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy is not always required after surgery, but it usually improves surgery outcomes. It is fully customizable to include patient goals and expected therapeutic outcomes.
Physical therapy helps control pain and increases strength, balance, coordination, and endurance. For many people, therapy starts right in the hospital and then continues after leaving the hospital on an outpatient basis.
Will I Have a Big Scar?
Modern surgical techniques minimize the amount of scarring and tissue disruption because of orthopedic procedures. Instruments are smaller and often guided by digital imaging.
However, more complex and extensive procedures – such as hip or knee arthroplasties or limb revision to treat disease or trauma – can involve scarring. Your doctor will tell you what to expect and how your physical therapy and occupational therapy team can help.
When Can I Drive or Return to Work?
With smaller procedures, such as carpal tunnel release, driving and work restrictions are typically very short. However, depending on your job requirements and the extent of your surgery, you may not get back to your usual activities for many weeks. This may include restrictions on driving, performing heavier household tasks, or returning to your regular exercise routine until your physician determines you are recovered. During you recovery, you may need help going about activities of daily living like running errands or doing laundry. Be sure to prepare for this by setting up help ahead of your surgery.
Will This Be My Last Surgery?
Our doctors often hear this question when patients face joint replacement. Typically, artificial components for the hip, knee, and other joints last anywhere from 15 to 20 years and up. If you are young when you have arthroplasty, you will likely need another surgery as joint replacements do not last a lifetime. However, older patients usually need only one, particularly if they stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, stay as active as possible, and have good overall health.
Orthopedic Care at EMU Health in Queens
Affiliated with the well-respected Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, EMU Health offers high-quality musculoskeletal care to the Queens community. Whether you have spine issues, a sports injury, arthritis, foot and ankle issues, or upper extremity pain, we can help.
Dr. Ivan Madrid is our fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon on staff, and Rothman Orthopaedic Institute specialists also see patients at our facilities. Our physicians use state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment and treatment options, including minimally invasive surgeries and non-operative solutions.
Call us for a consultation at (718) 850-4368 or schedule a visit here. We look forward to treating you and getting you back to your life pain-free!