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Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

10-04-2019

Being told that you need to have surgery can be a very daunting feeling. Knowing which questions to ask your surgeon in order to ensure you’re getting the right care and making the best choices for yourself is key. We spoke with Dr. Travis Scudday, orthopedic surgeon, to learn which seven questions you should ask your surgeon at your next appointment.

1. What other non-surgical options are available?

Undergoing any orthopedic procedure should never be taken lightly. The decision to move forward with surgery is a very personal one made between the patient and their surgeon. When I am counseling patients considering a surgical procedure, I expect to discuss the non-surgical alternatives. Today, there are more non-surgical alternatives than in years past, and a full discussion with your surgeon is an important place to start before making your final decision.

2. What are the most common complications associated with the procedure? What are your rates of these complications?

It is impossible to discuss every complication possible associated with a surgical procedure. When discussing possible hip or knee replacements with patients, I will go over the 3-5 most common complications. I encourage patients to ask their surgeons for real complication rates so we can make an informed decision. A 1% chance of a complication is much different than a 10% chance. Surgeons are not offended with these direct questions and are more than happy to discuss the specific research on the planned surgery.

3. What are the treatments for the most common complications?

There are often misconceptions as to the gravity of certain complications. The most common is infection. Most patients hear infection and think they will get some antibiotics and be better. While this may be the case, often an infection means another surgery, and maybe multiple. It can be a devastating complication and will change the recovery process. It is important for patients to understand what may happen if there is a complication.

4. When can I expect to get back to everyday activities? (ex: driving)

The little things in life like driving and walking without an aid can be taken for granted. It is helpful for planning and recovery to have an idea of when patients will be able to get back to doing some of the simple things we do not always think about. Surgeons can easily lay out a normal timeline for getting back into normal activities and this can make the planning process much easier.

5. What is the standard rehab process?

It’s also important to know how much therapy will be needed to get a complete recovery, and what type of therapy will be needed. Most orthopedic procedures follow very scripted and regimented rehab timelines and your surgeon can answer this question so you may begin planning for the recovery phase.

6. What kind of support will I need in the postoperative period?

Often patients underestimate how much help they will need at home. Having someone around for the first few days can make the recovery process much easier and relieve tremendous stress. Being able to plan for this is also important as we always want to be overprepared instead of scrambling for help at the last minute.

7. What level of function can I expect once I am completely healed?

This is the reason for having the surgery. What is the end goal? Running marathons? Walking your dog? Playing golf? Every patient has a different answer and the surgeon can help you anticipate what level you can expect to get back to. Every successful surgery begins with realistic and defined expectations. When the patient’s expectations line up with what the surgeon can deliver, that makes for happy patients and doctors.

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