Pre-Surgery Checklist for Joint Replacement
If you and your orthopedic surgeon have decided that you are a good candidate for joint replacement surgery, you will need to prepare, both physically and psychologically, for the procedure. By planning ahead and following these recommendations, you can help ensure a smooth surgery and a speedy recovery.
Talk with your doctor. Learn what to expect before, during, and after surgery. Ask about the process of being admitted to the hospital, the type of anesthesia you might need, the length of stay in the hospital, rehabilitation, and pain management. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to face the challenges and changes that surgery may make in your life. Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions, voice concerns, or ask for clarification when you do not understand.
During the weeks before your surgery, many people will be asking about your insurance coverage, medical history, and legal arrangements. If you have everything written down, you can reduce your frustration and speed the process. Be sure to provide the following information:
- A designated family member or friend as your primary contact
- A list of all the doctors you currently see and why, including names, addresses, and phone numbers
- A list of medical conditions and all previous operations
- A list of all medications and supplements you currently take on a regular basis, including the dosage and the frequency (daily, twice a day, etc)
- A list of any allergies or adverse reactions to drugs or anesthesia you’ve had in the past
- Any dietary restrictions or other health problems you have
- A list of your insurance coverage, including the name of the company, the plan or group number and contact information. And be sure to bring your insurance cards to the hospital with you.
- Information about any legal arrangements you’ve made, such as living will or durable power of attorney. Bring a copy of the documents to the hospital.
If you smoke, cut down or quit. Smoking changes blood flow patterns, delays healing, and slows recovery. If you drink, don’t have any alcohol for at least 48 hours before surgery. If you use any other types of controlled substances, tell your doctor. Narcotics and other drugs can have an impact on your surgery.
Ask your doctor for pre-surgical exercises. If you are having hip or knee replacement surgery, doing exercises to strengthen your upper body will help you cope with crutches or a walker after surgery. Isometric exercises can help maintain the strength of your leg muscles. Also ask about the exercises that will be prescribed after surgery. If you familiarize yourself with these postoperative exercises and practice them now, they will be easier to perform after the surgery.
Recovering from surgery takes time. But if you plan ahead, you can minimize stress and make your recovery easier and faster.
If you live alone or have other special needs, consider going to a specialized rehabilitation facility after discharge from the hospital, if needed. Your doctor can suggest appropriate places to consider.
Arrange for someone to take you home and to stay with you for several days after your surgery.
- If you do the cooking, make double batches of everything for a week or two before your surgery. Freeze half, and you’ll have two weeks of ready-made meals when you get home. Or stock up on ready-made foods that you enjoy. Store items you use regularly at arm level, so you don’t have to reach up or bend down.
- Borrow a walker or a pair of crutches and see how well you can maneuver through your home. You may need to rearrange furniture or temporarily change rooms (make the living room your bedroom, for example).
- Remove any throw or area rugs that could cause you to slip. Securely fasten electrical cords around the perimeter of the room. Consider modifying your bathroom to include a shower chair, gripping bar, or raised toilet.
- Shop for things that will make your life easier after surgery. Your list might include a long-handled shoehorn, a long-handled sponge, a grabbing tool or reacher, a footstool, a big-pocket shirt or soft shoulder bag for carrying things around.
- Set up a “recovery center” where you will spend most of your time. Things like the phone, television remote control, radio, facial tissues, wastebasket, pitcher and glass, reading materials and medications should all be within reach.
- If you do not already have a parking permit for a disabled person, apply for a temporary permit several weeks prior to your surgery. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles, or your doctor’s office may have an application form.
Several health care professionals will be involved in your surgery. You should ensure that each professional has the information necessary for proper decision-making.
Your primary care physician or an internist may want to conduct a general medical evaluation several weeks before surgery. This examination will assess your health and your risk for anesthesia. The results of this examination should be forwarded to your orthopedic surgeon, along with a surgical clearance.
Shortly before your scheduled surgery, you will probably have an orthopedic examination to review the procedure and answer any last-minute questions. The anesthesiologist will meet with you to discuss the type of anesthesia that will be used. Also, you may need to take several types of tests, including blood tests, a cardiogram, a urine sample, and a chest X-ray.
If you are also planning dental work such as extractions or periodontal treatments, schedule them well in advance of your surgery. Do not schedule any dental work, including routine cleanings, for several weeks after your surgery.
Notify your doctor if you come down with a fever, a cold, or any other illness in the week before the surgery.
The 24 hours before your surgery will be busy. Use this checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything:
- Take a shower or bath the night before your surgery to help reduce the risk of infection.
- Do not shave the area of the surgery.
- Do not wear any make-up, lipstick, or nail polish.
- Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery to prevent any nausea form the anesthesia.
- Bring a hospital bag including: a pair of comfortable bedroom slippers with non-skid soles, a knee-length robe or gown, a lightweight camisole or cotton shirt to wear under your hospital gown, copies of your insurance cards, any medications you regularly take, personal care items, and a loose-fitting sweat suit or jogging suit and comfortable shoes to wear home.
- Leave your cash, credit cards, and jewelry at home.
If you haven’t asked others for help yet, do so now. Have someone check in with you daily. You’ll recover more quickly if you have help instead of straining and trying to do it all yourself.
If you have any questions about your upcoming surgical procedure, call the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at (210) 692-7400.
Want to learn more about minimally invasive hip replacement, sports medicine, arthroscopic surgery of the knee and shoulder, or other treatment options? Visit our extensive patient education library.