Need knee replacement surgery? Ask your surgeon these questions first.

Patient asks orthopaedist questions

When you need to replace a major joint like a knee, you want to make sure you find the best possible surgeon.

University of Chicago Medicine orthopaedic surgeon Sara Shippee Wallace, MD, MPH, offered some advice on what to ask your doctor before you schedule your knee replacement surgery.

How many joint replacements do you perform each year?

You may not want a surgeon who doesn’t regularly perform knee replacement surgeries. Larger centers that perform higher volumes of joint replacement surgeries each year have better outcomes.

Are you board certified (American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery) and did you complete a fellowship to specialize in joint replacement?

You may be surprised to hear that some surgeons specialize in joint replacement while others do not.

What are my alternatives to surgery?

Injections, physical therapy and pain medications are some of the common alternatives. You never have to have your joint replaced if you can manage your symptoms with treatments.

How can I prepare for surgery and lower my risk of complications?

Being in optimal health, or the best health you can reasonably achieve, is important before joint replacement. Quitting smoking and losing weight are common steps that patients can take to lower their risk.

Will I be able to resume all of the activities I love?

It’s important to have the right expectations and to be on the same page as your surgeon.

How will my pain be managed after knee replacement surgery?

New pain management strategies after surgery can help you make a quicker recovery. Regional anesthesia, which uses medication to anesthetize or “numb” the surgical site, can reduce the need for opioid pain medication post-operatively. Regional anesthesia can include spinal anesthetic and nerve blocks. Minimizing opioids helps to reduce side effects of pain medications, such as nausea and constipation.

What is the typical timeline for recovery for someone like me?

Every patient recovers differently – your recovery may not look the same as your neighbor's. Knowing what to expect can help you plan and manage expectations.

How do I access postoperative physical therapy and home health services?

It’s important to plan ahead and partner with a trusted physical therapist. This is critical to a successful recovery after joint replacement surgery.

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Sara Wallace, MD

Sara Wallace, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in joint care. Dr. Wallace treats a wide range of common and complex hip and knee conditions, performing surgical procedures to restore mobility and reduce joint pain.

Learn more about Dr. Wallace

Orthopaedic Knee Care

The orthopaedic specialists at the University of Chicago Medicine offer comprehensive non-operative, arthroscopic and joint replacement care for patients with knee injuries and knee pain.

Explore our knee services