Debbi Engebritson asked a lot of questions and followed directions closely when she had her left knee replaced by Dr. Thomas Fyda of Great Basin Orthopaedics at Northern Nevada Medical Center (NNMC) in November 2018. She feels like her pre-surgery efforts contributed to how well she’s doing now, six months later. “GBO and NNMC both gave me so much information ahead of time, I felt really prepared,” she says.
While there are differences between “minor” and “major” surgery, anytime there is an incision in your body, you need to take it seriously. Planning ahead can help you heal better and return to your normal life faster.
The doctors and medical assistants at GBO are available to answer any questions you have before or after your surgery. We also asked for some insight from Facebook fans who have recently had surgery. Please remember that every patient is different though. If you have any questions or concerns about your healing process, please contact your doctor directly.
Take care of yourself:
No matter how great you might feel after surgery; your body needs to recover. This includes taking the proper amount of time off, eating right and following doctor’s orders. While it might feel as if your doctor(s) are being overly cautious, there are reasons for everything they tell you to do. Lifting too much weight or over-exerting yourself could tear your incision, lead to infection or worse. “Take your doctor’s advice and don’t rush your recovery,” Brandon Newton says.
Get your sleep:
Sleep is one of the most important tools for healing, though it can be difficult when dealing with incisions and pain. “My advice for anyone having any type of surgery on one side of your body, is to put pillows down that entire side so you don't turn over onto your incision while sleeping,” Carol Infranca shares. You may also need to enlist help getting in and out of bed.
While you’re recovering, you’re not going to be able to do everything you could before. This is the perfect time to say “yes” to anyone who has offered to help you. Let them bring you food, drive you to your appointments and, yes, maybe even help you take a shower or go to the bathroom.
Get the proper equipment:
You may need crutches, a walker, shower seat, toilet riser or something else for your recovery. Your healthcare team will tell you what you need for your specific operation, but be sure and ask questions about why you might need them so you’re well prepared. “There were some things I wouldn’t have thought about on my own, so that was very helpful,” Engebritson says.
Understand your medication:
Some prescriptions, like antibiotics, have be to be completed while others, like opioids, can be adjusted for your individual needs. Pain medication is designed to help you stay ahead of the pain, but some people have a bad reaction so will shift to an over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen. Opioids can also be addictive, so be sure to follow directions and don’t use more than prescribed. It can be useful to bring along an advocate to pre- and post-surgery appointments to help you better understand your instructions, since you may not be fully functional. “Have your advocate there for any instruction before or after,” shares Micheline Thompson. “You are impaired and won’t remember.”
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If your surgical instructions tell you not to drive for two weeks, please don’t drive for two weeks. It’s not just whether you’re able to navigate your post-op hip or knee; there is also the matter of pain medication that might affect your decision-making skills. You could also get in an accident, injuring yourself or others. Make good use of the Internet for shopping, and those real-life friends who are receptive to chauffeuring you about for a couple of weeks.
Keep your doctor’s appointments:
This shouldn’t need to be said, but your follow-up appointments are extremely important. Your medical team needs to see your incision, test your abilities and talk with you to know if there are any red flags you need to address.
Go to physical therapy:
Your surgery is just the beginning of your recovery process. Physical therapy is hugely important to get your body moving properly again and to give you the confidence you need. Make your first appointment before your surgery, keep it and then follow your prescription. If your doctor recommends eight weeks of PT, go to eight weeks of PT. There are also advantages to starting PT before your surgery. “Starting PT ahead of time helps you strengthen the muscles you’ll need during recovery,” shares Julie Malkin.
Be gentle with your incision:
Incisions need to be cared for gently, without harsh soaps or scrubs. Clean it as you would a baby — frequently and gently. Some scabbing is completely normal as the new tissue fills in, so don’t scrub that off.
Watch out for an infection:
While you may have had surgery for a joint or bone fracture, a post-op infection could be what causes you the most trouble. Wash your hands often and make sure anybody who touches your incision also has clean hands. After surgery, you may notice soreness, itching, tingling or numbness around the incision site or perhaps some swelling or a little oozing. These are all normal. However, you’ll need to call your doctor if you notice pus, excessive bleeding, fever, persistent pain, increasing swelling or redness, or any changes in odor emanating from the wound. These can be signs of an infection and should be taken seriously.
Talk to your medical team to better understand your ideal outcome. You’ll also want advice about how you’ll feel along the way. For example, four days after surgery can be tougher than the first or second day because the anesthesia will have worn off by then. Understanding your outcome will also help you be more realistic about when you can resume normal activities, including going back to work. “Lots of pre-surgery research and advice from a friend made me well prepared for my left hip replacement last January,” Christel Hall shares.
Understand your insurance plan:
This is definitely something that should be done before surgery to ensure you’re prepared for and can understand the bills that will arrive after the surgery. GBO’s billing department is available to go over your plan with you and answer any questions. “Make sure all providers are in-network and covered,” Frank Mullen advises. It’s also important to understand how your deductible works. “I had to have surgery on each foot at least six months apart, so I planned them for spring break a year apart, but then a friend pointed out that if I did them both in one year, it would be less expensive since I would have already met my deductible,” Inez Schaechterle shares.
While planning for surgery may seem overwhelming, your body will thank you as you recover and get on with your life! If you have questions about surgical or other options to feel better, give GBO a call at 775-786-1600.