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What to Expect During Joint Replacement Surgery at UPMC in Central Pa.

Once you’ve decided that total joint replacement is the best option for you, you may wonder what to expect before, during and after surgery. By planning ahead, you will be able to better manage the challenges of surgery and recovery.

Preoperative Planning

Once you and your physician have decided that total joint replacement is the best course of action, you will be contacted by one of our nurse care coordinators, who will act as your guide throughout the process.

To begin mapping out your treatment and recovery plan, your nurse care coordinator will discuss expectations, answer questions and ask you about post-surgery arrangements such as home needs and caregiver availability.

Preoperative Joint Surgery Class

We strongly encourage you to attend one of our pre-surgery information sessions along with the person who will be caring for you after your surgery.

The class covers topics such as:

  • What type of anesthesia you will receive.
  • How long you can expect to stay in the hospital.
  • How long recovery will take.
  • How your pain will be managed after surgery.
  • What you can do to prepare for surgery.
  • What to expect in rehabilitation.

For your convenience, classes are offered at several UPMC in Central Pa. locations your nurse care coordinator can give you available dates and times.

Prior to Your Surgery

Approximately 10 days before your scheduled surgery, you will come to a UPMC in Central Pa. location for pre-admission testing, which includes lab work, an electrocardiogram (EKG) and possibly an X-ray.

On the last weekday prior to your scheduled surgery, a member of the pre-admissions department will call with your specific surgery time, instructions and the time you need to arrive at the hospital. You will also be instructed to bring a completed list of medications (found in your patient guide) when you arrive for surgery as well as other necessities, such as identification and your insurance card.

The Day of Your Surgery

Once you have checked in to the surgical waiting room on the day of your surgery, a staff member will escort you to the pre-op area, where you will meet with your surgical team, have an intravenous (IV) line placed and be prepped for your procedure. A family member can stay with you until it is time for you to move into the operating room, after which they can wait in the family waiting area. To help update family members throughout the surgery process, UPMC in Central Pa. uses an electronic tracking system. The tracking system allows our staff to identify your location at any time and provide updates to friends and family. These updates are posted on electronic message boards and kiosks in several areas of the hospital. Your loved ones simply watch for the number assigned to you and use a password to access information about your location. Loved ones who cannot be with you in the hospital can also receive updates using this same password via the UPMC website.

Next, you will meet with your anesthesiologist, who will discuss the risks and benefits of different anesthetic options, such as general anesthesia, epidurals and femoral nerve blocks in the case of knee joint replacement. Once you have discussed and understood this important information, you will be sedated for your procedure.

Following surgery, you will be taken to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), where you will be evaluated by specialists. You will be closely evaluated by specially trained nurses. Your pain level will be assessed and you will be given medications to make you comfortable.

Your Inpatient Stay

The inpatient staff will continue to monitor your needs and provide care including pain control and early mobilization.

Beginning the morning after your surgery you will begin a gradual program of inpatient physical and occupational therapy with our on-site specialists. These sessions will focus on simple daily activities such as walking, getting in and out of bed, and getting to the bathroom.

The distances you are able to cover will gradually lengthen as your mobility increases. When you are medically stable and walking with a walker or crutches, you will be ready for discharge from the hospital, and will receive your at-home care guidelines.

Heading Home

We work with you to plan your discharge from the hospital, your return home and any follow-up services you may need.

After surgery, you will be given information on how to change dressings and navigate normal daily activities such as bathing or walking. You will also be given detailed instructions regarding any prescribed medications.

Post-surgical rehabilitation is a crucial part of the healing process, as it helps you gain the mobility you need to resume normal activities. Your recovery plan may include any number of inpatient or outpatient rehabilitative services, such as physical or occupational therapy sessions. You will also need to perform exercises at home, which will be outlined in detail on a handout for your reference. Your nurse care coordinator can help you manage appointments related to your rehabilitation and can answer any questions you may have about your recovery plan.

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