Fears about orthopedic surgery


Fears about orthopedic surgery and the facts behind them

  • Feeling nervous about surgery is normal. Asking your provider questions and gathering facts can help calm your fears.
  • Surgery is only recommended when conservative treatment options don’t relieve your joint pain.
  • Joint pain can affect people of any age.

Joint pain can prevent you from doing what you love and impact your quality of life. When other treatment options such as modifying your activities, anti-inflammatory medicine, physical therapy and injections don't relieve pain, your provider may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon. 

That’s where fear may start to kick in, adding more stress to your situation. Fear is a natural response when thinking about having surgery. That’s why it’s important to consider all your options and choose the right orthopedic provider for your unique needs. 

Here are some common fears about surgery and advice on approaching your recovery plan with confidence.

Do I need orthopedic surgery?

If we can treat an issue non-surgically, that’s our first plan. The best surgical alternatives for you depend on your goals, physical condition or type of injury. Nonsurgical options can often be the best place to start, helping you return to your favorite activities with less discomfort and pain. 

Surgery alternatives include:
• modifying your activities
• anti-inflammatory medicine
• physical therapy
• injections.

Talk with an orthopedic specialist about treatment options and find out if orthopedic surgery is right for you. 

How to stay calm before surgery 

Feeling anxious before surgery is normal. One way to calm your fears about your surgery is to ask questions. My patients all have different expectations, but mostly they look forward to getting back to “doing.” Bring all your questions so we can talk through your concerns. 

The surgical team will answer your questions, concerns and help manage your expectations. Your orthopedic provider will explain your procedure and walk you through your surgery step-by-step. Our goal is to empower you as you go into surgery, so you can recover with confidence. 

Common surgery fears 

Fear of pain during and after surgery. Talk to your care team about your pain management plan during and after your surgery. The plan may include a combination of anesthesia, nerve blocks, injections and anti-inflammatory medicine. After the surgery, your provider will consult with you about which medicines will be the best fit for you.  

Fear of surgery risks. There isn’t a direct relationship between surgical risk and your age. However, medical issues combined with age can increase your risk of complications. Your provider will assess your risks and decide if you can safely proceed with surgery. 

Fear of anesthesia. The fear of being “put to sleep” for surgery is common. The risk of anesthesia complications may increase in older adults who are obese, use tobacco or have medical issues such as heart and lung disease. Fortunately, the risk of severe complications from anesthesia among healthy people is still significantly low. 

Your safety comes first 

As part of general COVID-19 safety guidelines, you will be evaluated for symptoms before an in-person clinic visit. We ask that you wear a mask and our staff wears personal protective equipment (goggles, masks and face shields) to ensure your safety. Some elective surgeries may be postponed to reduce in-person contact and slow the spread of the virus. 


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