Preparing for a total hip replacement surgery can be daunting. Despite its overall success rate for most patients, a hip replacement is still a major procedure.
Part of the hip replacement process involves choosing the surgeon best suited to perform your surgery. This task can be easier if you know what questions to ask:
"Can you take the time to answer my questions about surgery?"
The first step is to make sure you find a surgeon with whom you feel you can communicate openly and honestly. Look for a surgeon who patiently listens to you and treats your questions and concerns with the time and attention they deserve.
"What approach do you recommend for my hip replacement? How much experience do you have with this approach?"
The traditional surgical approach for hip replacement is a posterior (“back”) approach, but newer techniques are gaining popularity for involving a smaller incision, such as the minimally invasive approach, or less muscle tissue cutting, such the anterior (“front”) approach.
Both of these options require the surgeon to have extra skills and experience in performing the approach. Don’t be afraid to ask for specific information about your surgeon’s experience, including how many times he or she performs the approach in a year and what his or her success and complication rates are.
"What results should I expect after this surgery? What are the typical results for someone in my condition?"
Hip replacement has very good results for nearly all patients, but it’s important that you understand exactly what expectations you should have for pain relief (“Will I be able to stop taking my pain medication?”) or mobility (“Will I still have a limp?”).
"What are my options for prosthetic materials and how they adhere to the bone? What would you choose if you were having this procedure?"
The ball and socket components of a hip replacement can be metal, plastic (polyethylene), ceramic, or a combination. They can be attached to the bone using cemented or cementless techniques. Your surgeon will probably make a recommendation based on your unique situation and his or her successful experiences with a particular option.
"What are the possible complications of this procedure? Am I at greater risk for any of them?"
Most complications are rare, but previous hip procedures or other health condition like diabetes or heart disease may raise your risk for certain complications.
"Can you explain what I can do before the surgery to have a good outcome? What about after the surgery?"
Prior to surgery, you may be able to decrease your odds of a complication by making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or building up the muscles surrounding the hip. Afterward, your ability to make a thorough and speedy recovery—or even to avoid complications—will rest in large part on your willingness to follow instructions for post-surgery behavior modification and rehabilitation.
Once you choose a surgeon and discuss a timeline for your hip replacement, you can ask about other specific topics related to your procedure, including:
- Whether you need to start or stop any medications prior to your surgery
- How long your hospital stay and recovery will take
- What assistance you’ll require after surgery and for how long
- What adjustments you should make at home to prepare for your recovery period
For a complete guide, see Preparing for Total Hip Replacement Surgery.
You should feel very comfortable with—and confident in—the surgeon who will perform your hip replacement surgery. Don’t be afraid to get a second or even third opinion, if needed.