When you seek professional care for your nagging knee pain, you need to take an active role when talking with your orthopaedic doctor. Asking questions is a way for you to ensure that you and your doctor are on the same page. But, a comprehensive discussion goes both ways. Your surgeon may provide you with the facts, which he believes is essential for you to know, but you should also ask the right questions that will get you the necessary information to make a well-informed decision.
So, we rounded out a set of questions that should give you the pertinent information you need. You might want to take notes because these can be helpful when it’s time for a consultation.
1. Why are you recommending this procedure?
It may be a basic question to ask, but it’s an important one. It’s for you to be aware of the rationale behind the interventions your doctor wants to apply to your case. Patient education is essential so that you can arrive at an informed decision. It’s not enough to just nod in agreement to whatever the doctor says because asking a surgeon’s purpose for recommending a particular procedure can also open a discussion on alternative treatments or other surgical approaches.
Know that patient care is a shared decision-making process between you and your surgeon. So you must be kept in the loop as to the “why” of preferred or chosen treatments.
2. When do I need surgery for my knee pain?
Always remember that just because you sought help from an orthopaedic surgeon, doesn’t mean that you’ll be heading for surgery. Surgical treatment is considered when all conservative interventions have not shown improvement, and when you feel that your problem is already affecting your quality of life. For instance, you’re no longer getting much out of your usual daily activities because you’re in so much pain.
When surgery is a possibility, timing is key. For doctors to arrive at a decision, they must do a thorough assessment to decide if…
- surgery can still be delayed
- there are other alternatives for now
- a certain condition is turning out to be intolerable
3. How successful is this procedure?
There are different invasive treatments in the orthopaedic surgery and these can come in various approaches. Therefore, you must be aware of the success rate of the different procedures and techniques.
4. What are the benefits of orthopaedic surgery and how long will they last?
It’s important that your surgeon also outlines the specific benefits of the surgery for you and how long these will last. It’s also wise to ask about published information on the outcomes of the recommended procedure. While double-checking them may be an extra step for you, they are important facts that can help you make an informed decision and also develop realistic expectations about the surgery. For instance, some benefits don’t provide long-lasting effects and you would hence require a second procedure.
5. What kinds of risks are involved?
Surgeries alway carry some risks, and you must be aware of this so you can weigh them against the benefits. Being aware of the potential risks associated with a specific procedure can educate you on the different measures you can do to avoid it. This question can also steer the conversation into important points such as certain conditions, medications, and habits that may affect the course of the procedure or your recovery.
Ask your orthopaedic surgeon to outline the possible complications such as infection and bleeding, as well as other possible side effects that could arise following procedure. You must know when to notify your doctor or seek medical attention for complications. This is also a good opportunity to discuss pain and the different ways to manage it.
6. Is there anything that I can do on my own to improve my condition?
This is a good follow-up to the question above so you will know what can be done to improve your chances of success. If there are controllable factors that can put you at an advantage for a safe procedure and successful recovery, then it’s better that you cover your bases by seeking advice during your consultation.
7. Will I need additional surgery after this procedure?
Follow-up or secondary surgeries might be needed for certain complex orthopaedic conditions. It’s important to know this when considering the need for initial surgery. For this, you need to ask how this surgery will affect you in the long term to fully grasp why a succeeding surgery is necessary.
8. What happens if I don’t get the operation done?
Should you decide against an operation, it’s also important to be aware of the repercussions. You need to know if your condition will worsen or if there is a possibility that it may resolve by itself.
9. What is your experience in doing this procedure?
You improve your chances for surgical success and minimise the risks by choosing an orthopaedic surgeon who is thoroughly trained and experienced in a particular procedure; in this case, someone who specialises in knee surgeries.
You may ask about their experience which includes the number of times they have done it, their success record, and even their rate of reoperation. You can also ask if that practitioner is board-certified, and by which board. Ask for contact information so you can discuss your concerns with them should you have other questions or clarifications later on.
10. What type of anaesthetic will be administered?
Your surgeon should tell you the appropriate anaesthetic for you based on your health history, prescription medications, and the vitamins or herbs you take. It’s also important to know who will be giving the anaesthetic (e.g. an anaesthesiologist or a nurse anaesthetist) and ask to meet with that person prior to surgery. From there you can ask how you will be monitored during the operation and if you will need any tests.
11. Will I be in pain afterwards?
Some surgeries are minimally invasive in that it doesn’t require any downtime at all, but some affect several structures that results in significant discomfort post-surgically. Asking this question can help you prepare for your recovery at home and arrange your leave from work so that you can ease through recovery without much fuss.
12. How long will I be in immediate recovery?
Whether you’re having an outpatient procedure or a major surgery, it helps to know how much time you’ll be spending in recovery or in admission. It’s also important that you are aware of what to expect during the immediate postoperative period. Will you be walking on the first day? Will you start therapy in the next 48 hours? Asking these questions will also inform you of how your mobility will progress after surgery. This can help set realistic expectations and can help you gauge whether it will take you weeks or months before you can get back into the swing of things, and the extent in which you will require assistance.
13. What can I expect from the surgery and how should I prepare for it?
For questions like this, your surgeon will likely give you a fact sheet of everything you need to know. But, you can’t disregard the value of discussing your concerns in person, so you can ask your questions as they arise. While there may be protocols set in place, your condition and health history should be taken into consideration, and it helps that there is information exchange through an open and honest discussion. Knowledge can reduce anxiety and it helps that you know well what you will be signing up for.
From this question, your surgeon may discuss the surgery itself, how you can prepare for surgery at home (e.g. fasting), and medication you may be taking.
14. Can I go back to my regular activities and still engage in sports?
This question is not only crucial for athletes because even regular individuals ought to know how much of their range of motion they can regain after surgery. You must also be aware if a particular procedure will indeed help you bounce back to your usual performance level, especially if you plan to go back to professional sports.
15. What type of physical therapy should I need?
With recovery in mind, you must also be aware of what type of physical therapy is needed and for how long will you engage in it. Your surgeon will refer you to a physical therapist and they will closely work together in monitoring your progress.
16. How much will this cost me?
Let’s be honest. These treatments are not cheap, and some doctors may not be aware of the costs of the different tests and medications they prescribe. Although some practitioners are on top of this information, usually you will be referred to an administrator who can help you find out the total cost of your surgery before you commit to this course of action. The information you can glean from this discussion will help you when ironing out your insurance papers. Since health plans vary in their coverage for different procedures, there may be costs that you’ll be paying out of pocket.
Now that you are aware of the right questions, we hope these can help initiate a thorough discussion with your orthopaedic doctor. If you wish to discuss further surgical interventions for your knee pain, and other orthopaedic concerns, you may approach Dr Andrew Dutton today. You may send us a message HERE, or you may call our clinic directly at (+65) 6836 8000.