I perform many joint replacements for patients that have already had one side replaced, right or left. For many patients with severe osteoarthritis, they are then left with one joint that feels perfect, and one that is still very painful. After they have recovered, they return asking me to replace the other side. This always creates an interesting question. Will the second surgery go as smoothly as the first?

Man walking with his therapist

It’s all about expectations

There are essentially three possibilities: it will be essentially the same recovery, it will be easier, or it will be harder. With the first surgery, there are many unknowns: how much pain will I have? How quickly will I be up and around? How fast why recover? How quickly will I get my range of motion back? We discuss these questions in the office in detail, however everyone is different. There is anxiety as one ventures into the unknown. This seems to provide some protective mechanism as it did for our ancestors thousands of years ago in the wild.

My patients always seem more relaxed going into the next operation. They know what to expect. They have been through it before. They know that in the end, they will be much better off and thrilled that they did it. They say they feel different after the second operation. The soreness might be in a different location or occur with different activities. They often have less pain as they know what medications work for them. They are ready for physical therapy.

Walking OutsideFor most it is much easier because they know what to expect. Pain might be more or less, but the overall process was better understood, their expectation were in line with reality, and they already see the light at the end of the tunnel before they go to sleep for the procedure.

Dr. Scott Hacker is a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon in San Diego, CA, Team Surgeon to the US Olympic Team.  He specializes in sports medicine and sports injuries, knee and shoulder surgery.
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