If you and your surgeon decide that joint replacement is right for you, a date will be scheduled for your surgery. Several things may be necessary to prepare for surgery. For example, your surgeon might ask you to have a physical examination by an internist or your primary care physician. This will help to ensure that other health problems you may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are identified and treated before surgery.
Your doctor may suggest that you lose weight and exercise. If you smoke, be sure to speak with your doctor about it, as smoking can dangerously increase surgical risks and slow down the healing process.
You should also finish any dental work that may be underway to prevent germs in your mouth from entering the bloodstream and infecting the joint. A blood transfusion may be necessary during surgery, so your surgeon may place an order with the blood bank just in case. If you prefer, or if your surgeon feels it’s needed, you may want to donate your own blood ahead of time to reduce the risk of your body reacting to the blood transfusion.
About four weeks before surgery
Become more familiar with your joint’s anatomy. You may find it helpful to understand how your natural joint works. Your surgeon may have educational materials they can provide.
Prepare questions to ask your doctor. Print out the list of questions linked below and take it with you to your next appointment. As your surgeon gives you instructions on how to prepare for surgery, take notes and refer to them once you are home.
About three weeks before surgery
Contact friends and family for support. You may need help with bathing, using the toilet, meals, laundry, housework, shopping, going to your doctor’s office, and exercising for several weeks following surgery. Contact family members or friends ahead of time to make the necessary arrangements. If you don't have someone to help you at home, ask your doctor about home caregivers. The Arthritis Foundation also has a support network that can provide emotional support. You can contact your local chapter or go to the Arthritis Foundation Web site (arthritis.org) for more information.
Get your home ready for your recovery. Store frequently used items in easy-to-reach locations, such as cleaning supplies, food, remote controls, medications, and reading materials. Avoid very high or very low shelves as these may require you to use a step stool or kneel.
Make and freeze meals or stock up on frozen dinners before surgery so that meal preparation is easier and requires less effort. You should plan on making enough meals for at least one week.
Check the safety of your home to prevent falls or tripping. Move long electrical and telephone cords against the wall, remove rugs, and place a non-skid mat in your bathtub. You may want to prepare a bed in the ground level of your home so you can avoid climbing stairs.
A little time spent getting your home ready before your surgery can make a big difference in your recovery. Here are some more helpful hints for around the house:
- Stock up on toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, medications, and other personal items
- Put a medical shower chair in your shower
- Get a hand-held shower head
- Get a raised toilet seat
- Get a shower sponge with a long handle
- Put handrails in the shower and next to the toilet
- Install nightlights throughout the house
- Wash all your towels, linens, and dirty clothes
- Place loose clothing and pajamas in easily accessible places
- Reachers and grabbers will come in handy
- A desk chair with wheels can make it easier to get around
- To keep your hands free to use for balance, consider using a walker basket, fanny pack, small backpack, or an apron with large pockets to hold things you'll want nearby
- Rent/buy/borrow plenty of books, movies, music, and puzzle books
- Call your local post office to request that mail be left at your front door instead of in your box
About two weeks before surgery
Avoid anti-inflammatory medications. Your surgeon may not want you to take any aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for a couple of weeks before surgery. You may be able to take medicines with acetaminophen. Be sure to discuss this with your surgeon.
Purchase or borrow the special equipment your surgeon recommends. This may include an elevated commode and small devices such as a grabber. You can find these items at most hospital supply sections of large drugstores or in mail-order catalogs from department stores. Practice using the items at home.
About one week before surgery
If you are currently taking any medicines bring a list which includes name(s), dose(s), and how often you take the medication. You will want to take this with you when you register at the hospital.
You may be admitted to the hospital or clinic typically three to nine days before your surgery. Depending on the country you live in, preparations such as insurance verification, lab work, X-rays, and electrocardiogram (EKG) may be required. Check with your surgeon to see what needs to be done in your case.
You may want to balance your checkbook, pay bills, make arrangements to board pets, and stop the delivery of your newspaper. If you are going to a rehabilitation facility after being discharged from the hospital, you can ask your local post office to hold your mail until you return home.
Some supermarkets and pharmacies provide delivery services to your home. This may make mobility after surgery more convenient. Call supermarkets and pharmacies to see if they provide delivery services and if they charge a fee.
Week of surgery
Pack for the hospital. Below is a list of things you may want to bring with you to the hospital in preparation for your surgery. We recommend that you leave your personal belongings with family members until after surgery or in the assigned room that you will return to after surgery.
- Personal grooming items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, eyeglasses/contacts, comb, deodorant, shaving cream/electric razor, shampoo, lotion, undergarments, and a robe.
- Slippers or flat rubber-soled shoes for walking in the hallways.
- Loose fitting clothing for your trip home.
- Ask your doctor if you should bring your actual medications or just a list of those you are currently taking. You should also write down your medication information for the hospital staff. Be sure to include the name, strength, and how often you take the medication. Tell your doctors and the nursing staff about any allergies you might have.
- If you use a breathing exerciser (IBE), be sure to bring it with you from home, as you will probably need this right after surgery. Check with your surgeon about this.
- Leave jewelry, credit cards, car and house keys, checkbooks, and items of personal value at home; bring only enough pocket money for items such as newspapers, magazines, etc.
Day before surgery
Eating or drinking after midnight will most likely not be allowed by your surgeon (not even water) the night before your surgery. Check with your physician about this. Your anesthesiologist may prescribe a medication for you to take the evening before surgery.
A little time spent getting yourself and your home ready before your surgery can make a big difference. For more information, contact your surgeon, and read Tips For Returning Home After Foot Or Ankle Surgery.