A major factor that you should consider before having a knee replacement surgery is proper preparation. A good preparation will actually give you successful outcomes with fewer complications. As a patient, you should consider learning what to expect during the procedure and recovery both at home and at the hospital. It includes knowing all the signs and complications that would require medical attention.
Preparing for Surgery
The very first step in preparing for a knee replacement is to undergo a medical evaluation. Your doctor needs to evaluate the knee that will be replaced, as well as your ankle and hip joint on the same leg. If all the joints examined are damaged, a knee replacement can improve everything. A medical evaluation may also include a pre-surgery checkup.
A few weeks before your knee replacement surgery, your doctor will take you through a complete physical examination to rule out other medical problems that bring pain to your knee. Your doctor will then take your medical history and order for some tests such as:
- Chest X-ray - this test is performed to ensure that your lungs and heart are working properly before the operation. Any condition that affects your heart and lungs may pose a greater risk of having complications after surgery.
- Blood and urine tests - these tests are performed to make sure that key organs in the body such as the kidneys and liver are in good condition before the surgery. A complete blood count is also needed to see if you have anemia and will need a blood transfusion after the surgery. Blood and urine tests can also detect if you have other metabolic diseases. A blood test will also indicate your blood group since it is important during a blood transfusion.
You should also tell your doctor about the medications that you are taking before the operation. Your doctor will then advise you on what medications to continue or stop before and after the operation. In case you develop other complications such as flu or cold, you should let your doctor know.
If you smoke, your doctor will advise you to stop since smoking will change the blood flow patterns, which can delay your recovery. If you are overweight, you will then be required to lose weight before the surgery.
You should also stop taking blood-thinning medications such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. However, you may continue using COX-2 inhibiting drugs such as Bextra, Vioxx, and Celebrex. Pain relievers such as Tylenol should be continued to ease discomfort.
You should prepare for your return home before you go for a knee replacement surgery to make your recovery as comfortable as possible. You should also have a family member or a friend who will accompany you to the hospital and be with you at home during the first week after your surgery. Make sure that you won't miss your return checkup with your doctor. If you have crutches or a walker, bring it with you to the hospital or doctor's clinic.
You should arrange for your meals at home to help eliminate extra work for your caretaker. Make sure that you follow safety precautions at home to prevent accidents. Safety precautions may include making the pathways clean, securing the handrails, securing extension cords, and making the stairways safe. You should also equip your house with the following:
- a raised toilet seat
- a stable shower chair or bench for bathing
- a shower hose
- a reaching device that will help you grab objects without bending
Once you have your operation date scheduled, you should immediately call your insurance company to make them know of your health plan. You will need to provide the date of your operation, the type of procedure, and the hospital's office number. You should also let them know of your post-surgery services such as the rehabilitation, physical therapy, and equipment such as walker and crutches.
In the case of a total knee replacement surgery, you are likely to lose a lot of blood that would call for a transfusion. Therefore, it is recommended for you to donate your own blood before the surgery. If you are unable to do that, your friends and family members can donate. Let them know about the blood donation before the procedure. You should also search for compatible donors to avoid any delay when blood is needed.
Before having a knee replacement surgery, you should have your dental problems treated. Although rare, an infection might occur in your surgical wound if bacteria happen to enter the bloodstream as a result of your dental problems. If you are advised so, then you should meet with your dentist before your surgery.
Weight loss is highly encouraged before a knee replacement surgery to help reduce the stress on your knee. Losing weight will help reduce some risks that are associated with the procedure. Your doctor will also recommend some exercises to help strengthen your knee muscles and also improve your overall health to achieve a faster recovery.
A consent form is given to make sure that you understand the whole surgical procedure and its risks. Before signing the consent form, you should ask the following questions:
Understanding the prosthesis
- Why is that prosthesis chosen for me?
- Who is the manufacturer of the prosthesis?
- What is the lifespan of the prosthesis?
- What are the advantages of this prosthesis over others?
- Are there any short-term or long-term complications associated with the prosthesis?
- What surgical approach will they use?
- What is the position and size of the incisions?
- What type of surgical plan will I have?
- Will they use a computer-assisted process?
- How long will the operation take?
Risks and side effects
- What is my infection rate?
- What potential risks should I expect after the surgery?
- What type of anesthetic will they use?
- For how long will I be in the hospital?
- How is the recovery process and how long will it take?
- When will the pain go away?
- When can I resume my daily normal activities?
- What movements should I avoid?
- Will I need a clinical follow-up?
- How long will it take for my knee to normally function again?
Before signing the consent form, you should have the answers to the above questions.
For a successful outcome of your knee replacement surgery, a thorough preparation is necessary. You should follow every instruction from your doctor to make sure that you have a successful surgical procedure with fewer complications.