• 7 Ways to Improve Your Surgical Success

  • Contemplating joint surgery? While finding a skilled surgeon is key, did you know that a successful outcome is as much in your hands as in your surgeon's? Here are seven essential steps to take before surgery.

    1. Watch your weight. According to two studies reported by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), patients who are obese have higher complication rates. Before surgery, aim to lose a few pounds if you're carrying excess weight. A good statistic to keep in mind is that you put four times your body weight on your knee joint every time you climb a stair.

    2. Cut back on alcohol. A Stanford University study found that alcohol misuse can result in increased complications after a joint surgery. While you don't have to abstain, keep moderation in mind. The Centers for Disease Control defines moderate alcohol use as one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or fewer drinks per day for men.

    3. Take control of your blood sugar. If you have diabetes or low blood sugar, get your numbers under control to help with healing. Research at the Orthopedic Institute in Miami found that patients with stable blood sugar fared significantly better after joint surgery. Work with your doctor to get your level between 70 and 120mg/dL.

    4. Kick the habit. A study of more than 33,000 patients from the VA Surgical Quality Improvement Program found that smokers had 41 percent higher odds of infection, 53 percent higher risk of stroke, and 161 percent higher risk of stroke after joint surgery than people who had never smoked.

    5. Get fit and flexible. Your overall fitness, strength, and flexibility all contribute to a successful outcome and prepare you for rehabilitation. The AAOS recommends asking your orthopedic specialist for pre-surgical exercises, so you'll be familiar with how to perform them as part of your recovery. Preoperative upper body strength training also can help you better manage crutches or a walker after hip or knee surgery.

    6. Think positive. As part of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that strong mental and emotional health - including the recognition that you have the ability to improve your outcome - leads to more successful results.

    7. Be well rested. Your body will have trouble healing from surgery if you don't get adequate sleep in the weeks leading up to your procedure. Sleep helps boost your immune system, which helps with healing. And sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk for complications after joint surgery in a study at Thomas Jefferson University.

    This article was reviewed by Robert Thomas, MD , on March 9, 2012.

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