Joint replacement is a relatively safe surgical procedure IF the patient is properly screened for health risks before surgery AND follows the doctor’s advice after the surgery.  As with any major medical event, being prepared in case something does not go as planned is wise.  Here are two things you can do before total joint replacement surgery:

1. Organize your personal medical and legal information.

  • Provide the surgeon and the hospital with the name, address and phone number of your spouse, relative, partner, friend, or caregiver who will be with you after the surgery and help you follow the doctor’s orders.
  • Provide your spouse, relative, partner, friend, or caregiver with contact information for each doctor you currently see, as well as your reasons for seeing them.
  • Provide your spouse, relative, partner, friend, or caregiver with copies of the post-surgical instructions.

This information should be organized and available :

  • Pre-existing medical conditions or health problems you may have.
  • Previous operations (even if they are unrelated to your joint replacement).
  • Upcoming appointments.
  • Medications you are currently taking, including supplements and vitamins.
  • Drug allergies or drug reactions you have had before.
  • Known food allergies and dietary restrictions.
  • Medical insurance information, including the name of the company and your plan or group number.

Your spouse, relative, partner, friend, or caregiver should know where to find your:

  • Will and powers of attorney for health care and property.

If you do not have a will or powers of attorney for health care and property, this is a good time to contact an attorney and have these important planning documents prepared and executed.

2. Ask your doctor about the risks of the surgery AND what you need to do after surgery to recover quickly.

Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor what will happen if the surgery doesn’t go well.  The more contingencies you and your doctor plan for, the more protected you will be if things take a turn for the worse.  Many patients also feel better after discussing their concerns and working with the doctor to make plans.

You can find information at many locations on the internet.  Here is the NIH National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases information page.

You can also print out this list of questions to bring with you to your doctors’ appointment.

Keep in mind that you are part of your health care team.  If you do not follow medical advice after the surgery, you might not recover as quickly or completely.

If you still cannot meet the demands of your work after your doctor has released you following surgery…

Some people do not recover as predicted following a hip or knee or shoulder replacement.  If you are not able to return to your work after six months from your surgery, and your doctor has told you that you have reached maximum medical improvement, it is probably time to consider whether there is other work that you could perform.

If you do not think you are able to perform any full time work, or if you are over 50 and you are not able to meet the strength demands of your past work, it might be time to consider filing a Social Security Disability Insurance claim.

An experienced Social Security Disability attorney can help you understand the Social Security rules and regulations and pursue a successful claim for benefits.

Here are some links to articles on my Social Security Disability blog that you may find helpful.

What are the requirements to initially file a Social Security Disability Insurance claim?

How to Transition From Work to Social Security Disability

Total joint replacement does not guarantee Social Security Disability benefits!

Joni Beth Bailey is a Southern Illinois Social Security Disability representative.