How do you know if surgery is right for you?

Surgery is a very personal decision for a patient to make. This week, two studies on knee surgery and shoulder surgery are giving two opposing views about going under knife. How do you know which option is best for you?

It can be very difficult for patients to know which surgery is right. Therefore, doctors recommend that patients carefully look at the pros and cons as well as the risks and benefits. If the benefits outweigh the risks, then that is clearly the better option.

There are about one million knee surgery operations performed each year in the United States. While it is likely that not everyone needs them, it is possible that more people need them than we originally thought. In the first study from Denmark, researchers split patients into two groups consisting of those who elected to undergo surgery, and those who did not. Both groups received alternative treatment options including losing weight, going on a diet, medications and exercise. The results showed that the group that elected the surgery fared better than the others.

Surgery is moving in a direction that is less invasive. Therefore, it is recommended that patients consider all of their options before going under the knife. It is also recommended that patients thoroughly discuss this with their doctor and even get a second opinion. The other options to consider before having surgery include non-invasive modalities, partial knee surgery, losing weight, physical therapy, knee injections, medications or cortisone shots, acupuncture, prolotherapy, arthroscopic surgery, stem cells or a knee osteotomy.

In the second study, the patients who had shoulder surgery actually found that it was not as beneficial. Alternative options for shoulder surgery that may be more optimal include rest, ice and heat, medications such as anti-inflammatory medications or oral steroids, stretching and resistance exercise once the pain has subsided, and physical therapy.

Other questions to ask to determine whether surgery is the best option including looking at the surgeon themselves. How many of these types of surgeries have they performed in the past? Do they have the proper surgical team? Does the surgeon actually do the surgery or is there someone else performing it? What are the complications? You may find that not every surgeon recommends surgery. And this way, you can find out all the information you need to make the best decision.