Sue, a healthy forty-something, had her hip replaced due to osteoarthritis in December 2013. She is also a patient representative for the National Joint Registry for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who work to improve joint replacement surgery.
Sue started a blog to share her hip-op experiences at www.njrhippychick.wordpress.com and her witty anecdotes feature Craig Revel Horwood as well as other stars of the moment, a sturdy bin and fashionable slippers! She has some very useful insights that would help anyone facing a joint replacement surgery.
Sue shares five things to think about when having a hip replacement and they might just help you:
1. Consider it important to have confidence in your choice of surgeon
No-one expects to need a joint replacement but thousands of people have this type of surgery every year. If it’s something your GP recommends for you, you will need to see a consultant orthopaedic surgeon to discuss the procedure.
It is important that you feel comfortable and confident in the relationship with your surgeon. You should feel that your consultations are an open, understanding process and there should be opportunities for you to ask questions whatever they might be.
Feeling able to voice your preferences for your care is important. It will help you to get to grips with the type of implant you might receive (they can be made of plastic, ceramic, metal) and the surgical technique that might be used. Plus, the other risks and benefits associated with having a joint replacement surgery. If necessary, seek another surgeon’s opinion via your GP and keep going until you feel confident – this is perfectly okay.
Many surgeons, hospitals and healthcare professionals advise that you do get prepared and play an active part before and after any operation. In many cases, this has proven to speed up recovery times. For joint replacement operations, this often means getting back to creature comforts at home sooner after your operation than you might think.
2. Review the surgeon and hospital-level information available at: www.njrsurgeonhospitalprofile.org.uk
This is an important new service that indicates whether surgeons are providing data to the NJR and how many similar joint replacement operations he or she performs.
The website presents information on more than 1,500 surgeons at present, along with the hospitals in which they work. It covers England for hip and knee surgery but it will offer more information later this year and in the future.
3. Prepare questions
You might already have questions at the forefront of your mind. But, if you aren’t sure where to start, here is an approach that means that you decide with your doctor, surgeon or nurse on an agreed treatment and care plan for you.
Grab a pen and paper and jot down three questions:
• What are my options?
• What are the pros and cons of each option for me?
• How do I get support to help me make a decision that is right for me?
4. If possible, bring someone else to any consultations
You may be reluctant to ask people as hospital appointments are during the day and this can mean time off work or away from family duties. Do consider having someone with you for your consultations, it can prove very useful.
A friend or loved one can help you to digest the information as it is being given to you. They can remind you if you have forgotten something that you had prepared and wanted to ask (such as the three questions above!) It is very difficult to process information accurately when it’s your body being discussed.
5. Seek advice and support
Last but by no means least, seek out additional advice and support as you need it. As Sue describes in her blog, her diagnosis for osteoarthritis and the need for a hip replacement was a long and surprising road.
You might seek support from friends or family members who have experienced the same thing. Or, it might be through local support groups (see below). Either way, be reassured that you are not alone. Around 200,000 patients receive a hip, knee, ankle, elbow or shoulder surgery each year.
The internet too has a whole array of information on joint replacement but it is important that you find impartial, trustworthy advice. The internet can be overwhelming. So where do you go?
You could start with the NJR Public and Patient Guide at www.njrcentre.org.uk that includes information about organisations and charities linked to joint replacement. Or you could check out some of the other recommended links below:
Arthritis Care provides a great online forum wwwarthritiscareforum.org.uk, lots of local support groups and a free helpline. The helpline is open from 10am – 4pm weekdays or ring freephone 0808 800 4050 for a chat or email email@example.com.
NHS Choices provides full explanations of hip replacement and knee replacement surgery at www.nhs.net. This includes videos of patient stories and animations about the surgery itself.
Arthritis Research UK also provides lots of information about different joint replacement surgery and procedures at www.arthritisresearch.org.uk.
Bonesmart is an online forum for joint replacement patients at www.bonesmart.org. It is worth noting that its contributors are from all over the world including many from the United States. Still, it offers a useful and welcome community to pose questions to.
If you would like to find out more The National Joint Registry’s Public and Patient Guide contains FAQs and a break-down of the information and data that they collect. This information is based on over 1.5 million joint replacement operation records. It looks at the performance of implants, hospitals and surgical technique. You can find the link to this guide and more at www.njrcentre.org.uk. If you would like to telephone, the Service Desk is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm on 0845 345 9991.