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.