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Getting yourself healthy before surgery

Don't wait to be asked! Keep your health care providers informed

Whether or not you have seen many doctors, you will likely know more about your symptoms and your health history than anyone else. Your health care providers will depend on you for that information.

Tell your doctor(s) about:

  • Any reactions or allergies you have had to medicines, foods (such as shellfish), tapes, iodine, or latex.
  • If you have been drinking a lot of alcohol, more than 1 or 2 drinks a day.
  • Problems with anesthesia before.
  • History of blood clots or bleeding problems.
  • Recent dental problems, such as infections or dental surgery.

Always let your provider know about any cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness you may have before your surgery.

Have any needed or planned dental work done before the knee-replacement surgery. After your replacement:

  • Your surgeon may not allow you to have any dental work done for 3 months after surgery.
  • Make sure your dentist and other providers know that you had surgery.
  • You may need to have antibiotics prior to some dental procedures.

Preoperative exam

Before your surgery, you will need to have a history and physical exam.

  • This may be done by your orthopedic surgeon, or you may be asked to see your primary care doctor.
  • Sometimes you may be asked to have a visit with a specialist who takes care of problems such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease.
  • Try to have this checkup at least 2 or 3 weeks before your surgery. That way, your doctors will have a chance to "tune-up" any of your medical problems.

Some hospitals will also have you visit with a nurse at the hospital before surgery.

  • You will be asked many questions about your medical history.
  • You may also have a chest x-ray, some lab tests, or an EKG during this visit.

Find out how you should manage your medicines

Bring a list of medicines you are taking with you every time you see a provider.

  • This includes medicines you bought without a prescription and medicines you do not take every day.
  • Write down the dose and how often you take your medicines every day.
  • Tell your providers about any vitamins, supplements, minerals, or natural medicines you are taking, as well as any alternative treatments you have had.

One week before surgery you may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other blood thinner drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and rivaroxaban (Xarelto).

Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of your surgery.

Manage your medical problems

If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical problems, your surgeon will ask you to see the doctor who treats you for these conditions. You can reduce your risk of problems during and after surgery by having your diabetes and other medical problems under control before surgery.

If you smoke, you need to stop smoking before your knee surgery. Ask your provider for help. Smoking will slow down wound and bone healing. Focus on stopping now to achieve a safer and more complete recovery from your surgery.

You may have long-term medical problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, lung problems, and skin conditions. Make sure these problems are stable and let all of your providers know about your upcoming surgery. They may suggest you change your medicine before you have surgery.

Tell me more about getting ready for knee replacement

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Review Date: 8/9/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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