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Frequently Asked Questions

Before Your Surgery

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Also called degenerative joint disease, it is a breakdown of the cartilage in the joints. Risk factors include age, obesity, prior joint injury or infection and genetics.

How do I decide if and when to have joint replacement surgery?

Total joint replacement surgery is beneficial when the joint pain prevents you from participating in your normal activities, such as sleeping, walking or working; when other treatments for your pain and decreased mobility have failed; and your primary care physician and other medical specialists agree that you are healthy enough to have surgery. Conservative treatment options may include medications (pain and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), losing weight, restricting activities, using a cane, heat or cold therapy and a tailored exercise regime.

Is total joint replacement surgery covered by my insurance?

Insurance coverage varies from policy to policy. Please check with your insurance provider.

What is minimally invasive surgery?

Expertly trained orthopedic surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery with smaller incisions using a special technique and instruments to avoid tissue damage common after traditional total joint replacement surgery. Not all candidates for total joint replacement surgery are able to have minimally invasive surgery.

What is the difference between a cemented versus non-cemented total joint?

Using cement or not is determined by the surgeon's preference and technique.  The decision is based on many factors including your age, activity level, weight and bone quality.

What about the gender-specific joint?

The gender-specific total knee replacement joint is contoured to fit the shape of women's knees. There are two options the surgeon will use to ensure you have a good fit regardless of the prosthesis type. Your surgeon will discuss these options with you.

Can I bring and use my own bottles of medication while I am in the hospital?

Do not bring your medications with you to the medical center unless specifically requested to do so.

What about after surgery? Who will take care of me? Where will I go?

It is best if arrangements for after care are arranged before being admitted to the medical center. Most patients will be in the medical center for two to three days depending on overall health and mobility. Recovering at home is best if the health care team determines it is safe to do so. Care management staff will speak to you the day after your surgery to ensure a smooth transition to home. We recommend that someone stay with you for the first 24 hours after you return home. It is also helpful if you have meals prepared ahead of time or have items available for quick, easy-fix meals. If you are placed into an extended care facility, a care management staff member will discuss your options and help make the arrangements. We prefer that you have two or three choices in mind.

What can I do to make my surgery a success?

Be positive – A positive attitude leads to a better outcome.

Be confident – You have selected a special team of highly trained and nationally recognized health care providers who will give you excellent care.

Be prepared – By attending the free Bryan Joint Academy pre-op class, you will learn what to expect before, during and after surgery. Proper knowledge ensures realistic expectations and a rapid, safe and successful return to life's activities.

After Your Surgery

What can I do to prevent swelling?

It is best to treat swelling before it starts. 

  • Use cold therapy before and after activity and at least four times a day for 20 minutes. 
  • Lie down and elevate your foot above your heart for 30 minutes. Do this several times a day. 
  • Keep active; do not sit for longer than 30-60 minutes at a time. 
  • Do your ankle exercises frequently. 
  • Wear your TED hose or appropriate wrap.
When do I call my orthopedic surgeon?

Call your orthopedic surgeon if you are unable to move your new joint or if you have any signs of joint or incision infection or need more pain pills.

When do I call my primary care physician?

Call your primary care physician if you have lower leg (calf) pain, tenderness or redness or other medical illness/concerns.

When should I call 911?

Call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room if you are having unexpected chest pain, sudden shortness of breath or difficulty breathing or severe headache.

I forgot to take my blood thinner (anticoagulation) medicine today, what should I do now?

Do not double up on your dose. Continue your dose as prescribed. Call your primary care physician and follow instruction.

When can I drive?

Do not drive until your surgeon gives you permission to do so. 

What can I do to make my surgery a success?

Your surgery will be a success if you follow your precautions, keep your appointments and follow your exercise program.

What equipment do I need at home?

Your safety is very important to us. During the Joint Academy pre-operative class you will be educated on the most beneficial types of equipment used after your joint replacement surgery. Occupational therapy will visit with you after surgery to assess your needs. 

When can I return to my normal activities?

This will be discussed at your follow-up visit with your surgeon. Going back to work depends on the type of work you do, such as if you sit at work or are more active. You will start slowly, and gradually ease into your normal activities.

How long will my new joint last? 

Joint replacement longevity varies from person to person. The length of your total joint replacement depends on many factors including your age, weight, activity level and bone strength. Most joints can last about 20 years.

Physical therapy is done. Now what?

Improving and maintaining the strength and tone of all your muscles is very important. Continue the exercises taught in your pre-operative Joint Academy Class and your Joint Academy education book or replace with low-impact exercise.

A friend used a CPM machine after total knee replacement surgery, do I need one?

There are two types of movement: passive and active. Passive knee movement means the machine moves the knee for you. Active movement means you move the knee yourself. A continuous passive motion (CPM) machine is used to begin gentle continuous knee movement immediately or a few days following surgery. The use of a CPM machine depends on the mobility of your knee after surgery and is prescribed by your surgeon. 

How long do I wear my TEDs or appropriate wrap?

TEDs are elastic stockings that are worn to reduce swelling and improve circulation in the deep veins of the legs. It is preferred that you wear your TEDs at least three to six weeks. If you are very active and have no swelling, you may ask your surgeon if you can stop wearing the TEDs.

How long do I follow my hip precautions?

Certain movements place undue stress on the new hip, so for your safety the precautions should be followed for at least three months following surgery. The success of your total hip replacement depends on how well you follow these precautions and use common sense thereafter to prevent hip dislocation.  Continue to do your exercises to maintain strong bone and muscle.
 
How long will I be on anticoagulation (blood thinner) medicine?

You will be on anticoagulation therapy (blood thinner) two to six weeks depending on your activity level and your risk factors for blood clots.

What about airports and setting off the metal detector alarms?

The metal for your replacement may trigger the security machines in airports and other security check points. You will receive an ID card from your surgeon's office that states you have an artificial joint. Carry this card with you at all times to show security.

I need to go to the dentist or have another procedure done. What do I need to do?

If you are scheduled for a routine dental check up or are having another type of surgery, tell your primary care doctor. An antibiotic will be prescribed before the dental cleaning or procedure to prevent infection. Your surgeon will tell you how long to take the antibiotic. It can be up to two years or the remainder of your life.

If you have additional questions, please call our orthopedic nurse educator at 402-481-3690.
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