With SMH Orthopedic Program Coordinator Lisa Kennedy
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When aging or injury leave you with painful, worn-out joints — and physical therapy isn’t offering relief — joint replacement surgery may be your best treatment option.
It’s common to feel nervous, even overwhelmed, when you’re faced with having surgery. But getting the facts on your procedure ahead of time and knowing what to expect can help ease the worry.
To learn more about joints and joint replacement surgeries — including first steps, how to prepare and what resources are available for patients considering surgery — Healthe-Matters editors talked with Lisa Kennedy, Sarasota Memorial’s Orthopedic program coordinator, in this Ask An Expert Q&A.
Joint Replacement Surgery FAQs
Q: What resources are available to help joint-pain sufferers decide about replacement surgery?
For those who have not yet found an orthopedic surgeon, the Sarasota Memorial HealthLine team can help you identify a local expert who fits your needs. You can reach the HealthLine physician referral line at 941-917-7777, and the free service is open to anyone in our community.
Q: Are there resources available for patients planning a joint replacement to learn what to expect before, during and after surgery?
At SMH, we offer a joint replacement pre-operative class, that dives into what patients need to know and do before, during and after the surgery. The class is offered twice weekly at various locations, including the main hospital campus. For dates and locations, as well as any other information on the classes, people can call 941-917-7963.
Q: What can a patient can do before surgery to help speed their recovery after surgery?
Definitely attend any pre-surgery education classes, like those I mentioned before, and pre-admission testing. Also, always follow your doctor’s instructions and advice.
Many times, an orthopedic surgeon or doctor will recommend a patient participate in pre-habilitation, or “pre-hab,” before committing to a joint replacement. Prehab is basically a customized set of exercises and activities, like riding a stationary bike, to get the patient stronger and to help strengthen those muscles around the arthritic or painful joint. That way, after surgery, recovery will be a little bit smoother and easier.
To reduce your risks associated with surgery (infection, blood clots, delayed wound healing, etc.) and boost your recovery, seek help to stop smoking, lose weight (if necessary) and get control of your blood sugars (if diabetic) before you have surgery.
You can also take steps before surgery to prevent postoperative infections. Patients should avoid shaving the surgery site area for about a week or two before procedure, so there are no cuts on the skin. They should be sure to follow all instructions provided during pre-admission testing and to use the supplied soap to wash the whole body.
Q: How long does it take a joint replacement surgery to completely heal?
Everybody heals differently, so recovery time is unique to each patient. The first week or two after surgery is the hardest part of recovery. That's when you're going to be slowed down the most.
After about two weeks, you'll notice your activity level return to normal, but you may see some swelling for up to six months after surgery. Usually, about two to three months after surgery, you will forget you had that joint replacement — except you'll know how good you feel!
Q: What can patients do to prepare for returning home after surgery?
Any equipment that will be needed at home, the hospital will provide to you, so that's one less worry to prepare for. Some things you should do to prepare include:
- Make your house easy and safe to navigate, particularly if you’ll be using a mobility aid like a walker. Be sure your walkways are clear throughout the house, removing anything that might trip you, like a throw rug or clutter in the hallways.
- Prepare some frozen and easy-grab meals that can easily be heated. You likely won’t be up for standing in the kitchen long enough to cook a meal, so having food that’s quick and easy to access is a big step in making sure your transition home is smooth.
- If possible, arrange for someone to come and check on you throughout the day in case you need assistance.
If you have any other questions, be sure to visit smh.com/ortho, where you’ll find links to videos detailing pre-admission and discharge processes as well as other information, or call the Orthopedic Services nurse navigator at 941-917-7356.