‘Life is movement, stated the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Movement is a vital human characteristic skillfully executed by the body’s musculoskeletal system. The bones and joints provide the skeletal framework for movement. Problems of bones or joints can result in pain, immobility, and inability to perform day-to-day activities. Often surgery may be required to fix the problem, thus, relieving pain and restoring function.
Here are five things you should consider before bone or joint surgery:
Surgery may be required for broken bones and worn-out joints. However, not all bone and joint problems need surgery. Some fractures can heal well with just a plaster or a brace and do not require surgery. Newer treatments like an injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cells can provide relief to worn-out joints and damaged tendons, especially in mild to moderate cases. Discuss with your doctor about all the options and participate actively in the decision-making for your treatment.
If surgery is the right option, know what the surgery involves and how it will help you. Being informed beforehand will help you set realistic expectations for the treatment. Surgery for fractures usually requires fixing them with implants like plates or nails. Badly damaged joints are usually fixed by replacement of the worn-out surfaces with artificial metal or ceramic-coated implants. However, there may be risks associated with the surgery. Discuss with your surgeon to understand these and make an informed choice.
It is important for your doctor to know if you have had any medical conditions and have taken any medications (including herbal medicines) for any health ailment. This can have a significant bearing on your treatment. Medications like blood thinners may have to be stopped for a few days to avoid the risk of excessive bleeding during or after surgery. Previous surgery, especially on the same bone or joint may require the surgeon to modify their treatment plan. Inform your doctor if you have a fever or any other illness, especially, in the week preceding your scheduled surgery.
Post-surgery, there may be restrictions on mobility or the ability to bear any weight on the legs, for a few weeks or months. You may have to move about using crutches or a walking frame. Your doctor may ask you to avoid stairs for a few weeks after surgery. A commode seat extension may be needed in order to avoid putting strain on the operated leg. Physiotherapy is often needed after bone and joint surgery. Ensure that suitable arrangements have been made including for your transfer home from the hospital, after surgery. Apply for medical leave from work as recommended by your doctor.
Smoking delays bone healing and increases the risk of infection after surgery. Avoid smoking for at least 4-8 weeks before surgery. Alcohol consumption prior to surgery can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. Heavy drinking prior to surgery increases the risk of postoperative complications. Avoid consuming alcohol for at least 48 hours prior to surgery.
Dr. Siddharth M. Shah, Consultant Orthopaedics and Joint Replacement Surgeon
S L Raheja (A Fortis Associate) Hospital, Mahim