Getting in shape for surgery

I’m about to have an operation and I’ve been told that I have to get fitter before my surgery. Is this true and what options are there for me?

Getting the best results from your surgery is a two-way process. We will do all we can to ensure that your operation and care are second to none, but there is a lot that you can do before coming to us for treatment to help that along.

Firstly, it is a good idea to try to lose weight. Not only will this help to reduce pain if you have arthritic hips or knees, but it also greatly reduces the risk of complications such as infection or blood clots (although we also take measures to ensure a reduced risk here). Weight loss is also good for recovery and for your general health in the future – as well as putting less stress on your new joint.

Either we or your GP can provide advice and good sources of information to help you to lose weight.

You will be asked to either stop or significantly reduce smoking, and you are advised to avoid cuts, scratches and bits prior to surgery – they may lead to your operation being cancelled on infection control grounds.

If you are able, try to increase the amount of physical activity that you do. This does not necessarily mean running for miles (unless you are able and really want to) but just a simple walk around the garden on a regular basis will help. A useful and relatively cheap bit of technology is a pedometer, which will count the number of steps you take and give you goals to achieve. Some versions will even work out your cardiovascular measurement and predicted weight loss.

Combined with any weight loss measures you are taking, this will improve your overall health, increase circulation and make you generally stronger for surgery.

If you are unsure about what kind of exercise to take or at what level, always ask advice before you launch yourself into it. Our physiotherapy team can help, as can your GP or practice nurse. Importantly, choose something which you are going to enjoy and which you can achieve – that way, not only is it good for you but it is fun too.

When you come for your initial assessment we may give you exercises to do. For example, if you are due for a hip replacement we might get you to increase the strength of your leg muscles by using a special elastic strip which goes around your knees when sitting, so you can open and close your knees against the resistance of the elastic.

If you are given such exercises to do before surgery it is important that you carry them put as per the instructions from the doctor or physiotherapist. Not only will it aid your recovery from surgery, it will also get you into the right mind set to do the exercises you will be given when you are discharged.

If you can, try to get out and about and do things which relax or calm you before you come in for surgery. As well as a healthy body, a healthy mind is vital for a full recovery. If you can come to us with a positive outlook you will get so much more benefit from the treatment and care we can provide you.