Why you should shed the pounds before going under the knife
Losing weight before having surgery offers many benefits, including a faster healing time
Every year, over 200,000 knee and hip replacements are carried out in the UK, and for many patients the results can be literally life-changing. As with any major operation, orthopaedic surgery is not without its risks, but by getting in shape and losing any excess weight before you go under the knife, you can reduce the risks and increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
The biggest benefit of losing weight before orthopaedic surgery is that it makes the operation itself much safer. Being overweight can cause complications with the administration of anaesthesia, as it makes it more difficult for the anaesthetist to locate veins, get the patient in the right position to administer spinal blocks, and to ensure that the patient gets sufficient oxygen during intubation. What’s more, in order to keep the patient under sedation, the anaesthetist has to use larger doses of medication, which can be risky. In terms of the surgery itself, excess weight means more tissue for the surgeon to get through, increasing the operating time and potentially increasing the risk of complications and infection.
Reduced risk of post-op complications
Hip and knee replacements can pose a number of post-operative complications, which can cause pain and discomfort, prolong recovery and, in extreme cases could mean that the joint has to be operated on again. Luckily, studies suggest that losing weight prior to surgery can reduce the risk of post-operative complications by 75% for hip replacement surgery and 31% for knee replacement surgery – so making the effort to drop the pounds can have a significant impact on the success of the operation.
Avoid post-op fractures
One particular complication that can arise from hip or knee replacement surgery is post-operative fractures – and the risk is significantly higher for patients who are overweight. Once the artificial joint has been fitted and you start to become more mobile, any excess weight could put pressure on the joint, potentially causing a fracture.
Speedier healing and recovery
Getting down to a heathier weight prior to orthopaedic surgery can really help to aid the healing process. Any surgical incisions need a good blood and oxygen supply in order to heal well, but excess tissue can put pressure on blood vessels, slowing down circulation and increasing the amount of time it takes your body to heal and repair itself.
After orthopaedic surgery, patients usually require physical therapy in order to fully recover from the operation and get used to exercising the joint. If you’re overweight you may have difficulty with some of the physical therapy exercises, which could have a long-term impact on your strength and mobility. What’s more, obesity often comes with a range of health complications such as hypertension, breathing difficulties and diabetes. These can limit your medication options, during and after surgery, potentially delaying your recovery further.
As you can see, weight loss before orthopaedic surgery carries significant benefits to your physical health. We know that losing weight isn’t always easy, but there are lots of different options out there, from calorie-controlled diets, to slimming clubs, and even hypnotherapy-based weight loss treatments – it's all about finding the method that works best for you.
So, before you go under the knife, do what you can to drop those pounds and lead a healthier lifestyle, and maximise your chances of a happy and healthy post-op recovery.