Orthopaedic surgery is usually performed to improve a patient’s function, either by relieving pain, restoring movement or stability to a joint. In some cases – particularly in children, surgery may be recommended to prevent problems occurring to a limb in the future.
Unless there is a severe fracture, dislocation, tumor, or rapidly progressive deformity, surgery is always a choice. The conditions mentioned above generally need surgery to help prevent deterioration and irreversible damage.
When considering the treatment of their condition, “Do I need surgery?” is a question that patients often ask.
The answer depends on the patient’s symptoms and how debilitating the symptoms are for that patient’s lifestyle. For example an up and coming professional athlete who has an unstable knee may decide to go ahead and have surgery to fix this as soon as possible, so as to enable a return to sport, however someone leading a less active lifestyle may choose to modify their activities, try medications or physiotherapy prior to seeking surgical treatment.
It is important to remember that your perception of how successful your surgery is, will depend greatly on how severe your symptoms and pain are to start with. The same operation performed on two separate patients will be seen differently if their experiences of pain are different. For example, someone with only moderate pain and disability may see the operation as only moderately successful because it will only cause a small improvement in their pain. Someone with severe pain and disability will be much happier with their operation as it will have a much bigger impact on their lives.
It is also important to consider the potential risks of surgery to your health. All surgery carries risks of both the anaesthetic and the procedure itself. These can be significant and very occasionally life-threatening. You must weigh up your potential for improvement with an operation, against the potential risks involved with the surgery.
Patients are often worried that taking medication for the rest of their life can be bad for their health. Most painkillers are safe and this is certainly not a reason in itself to have or not have an operation.
Mostly orthopaedic surgery is a choice that we will help you make. It is a combination of the information you as a patient provide, the examination and imaging that will allow us to make recommendations.
Ultimately it is your choice.