Orthopedic surgery is more and more commonplace in North America, and helps many patients who are severely incapacitated, or in excruciating pain, as a result of damaged, worn joints and bones. The benefits of orthopedic surgery are undeniable: it is often minimally invasive, alleviates pain, and subsequently improves the patient’s overall life experience. However, as with all surgery, there are risks involved; therefore, it is important to equip yourself with the facts before deciding whether an orthopedic procedure is right for you.
What surgical procedures are necessary?
One of the first questions you need to ask is in regards to the type of surgery required to treat your condition. There are so many variables, even for the same surgical procedure, with individual circumstances playing a huge part in the treatment required. Many orthopedic procedures these days are carried out using minimally invasive methods, also referred to as arthroscopy.
This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure on a joint in which an examination and sometimes treatment of damage is performed using an arthroscope, an endoscope that is inserted into the joint through a small incision, rather than one large opening utilized in more traditional surgical procedures. Less invasive methods mean that the process, including recovery and healing, is often quicker and easier for the patient to deal with.
Have all alternatives been investigated?
In the majority of cases, orthopedic surgery should only be used when all other, non-invasive treatments, have been fully explored. A trustworthy and professional orthopedic surgeon will never rush into surgery; instead, they will request that all other treatment options have been thoroughly examined, and considered, prior to proceeding with an operation.
How much does pain impact upon daily life?
Most people considering orthopedic surgery are experiencing pain they believe to be affecting their quality of life, but it is important to consider how much your discomfort is interfering with daily life. For example, if the pain is intermittent, and doesn’t affect you all the time, then perhaps surgery is not something to be considered immediately. However, if the pain experienced is constant and prevents you from completing everyday tasks, such as walking or climbing the stairs, and has persisted for a long period of time, then it is likely that surgery would prove beneficial.
What risks need to be factored in?
Although post-operative complications associated with orthopedic surgery are very low, all surgical procedures involve some risk, and the more invasive and lengthy the procedure, the higher the chances. Individual factors also come into play, with risk increasing in relation to age, and influenced by health conditions, such as obesity, or other serious illnesses. Always make sure that you not only discuss in depth the recommended surgical procedures, but that you also ascertain the risks involved.
What follows surgery?
One of the most crucial aspects of orthopedic surgery is the follow-up treatment and care. It is imperative that physical therapy is carried out by experienced individuals, and takes place regularly. Appropriate physical therapy is fundamental in assuring a successful outcome, and needs to be taken very seriously. It is important to ask how often sessions will take place, perhaps even suggesting that you meet your prospective therapist before your surgery, so that you can anticipate the help they will offer, and what is expected from you. You should also request clear answers on how long your recovery will take, with estimated time-frames for getting up and about, and later, returning to work.
Above all, take an active position in your care. Ask your orthopedic specialist questions that educate you, set your mind at ease, and help you make informed decisions about your treatment options, your steps to recovery, and the role you can play in your own healing journey.