Is surgery right for me?


Surgery is a treatment option for many conditions and is generally successful.

However keep in mind that your surgeon cannot guarantee that the surgery will meet all of your expectations and that no surgery is without risk. While the surgeon will offer guidance and information the final decision is yours and should not be made in a rush.

All surgical procedures have risks. While every attempt is made to minimise these risks complications can occur. You will be informed of possible side effects or complications of any planned surgical procedure. You should consent to undergo surgery only when you are satisfied that the potential risks of surgery are outweighed by the potential benefits bearing in mind your own symptoms and functional limitations.

Risks of Surgery in General

Surgery is a treatment option for many conditions and is generally successful. However keep in mind that a surgeon cannot guarantee that the results will meet all of your expectations and also that no surgery is without risk. While every attempt is made to minimise these risks complications can occur.

There is no doubt that the risk of complications is higher in those who smoke or use tobacco products and consideration should be given to stopping use before surgery.

Anaesthetic Risks
Problems following or during anaesthetics are very rare but include Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction, MI), Stroke (Cerebro-Vascular Accident, CVA) and a clot in the leg (Deep Vein Thrombosis, DVT) or lungs (Pulmonary Embolus, PE). Although uncommon these can be very serious or even life-threatening

Scar
Scars usually heal without any problems. In the short term they may be itchy and mildly tender but this settles as the scar matures. By 12 months after the operation scars are usually fine and pale in colour. Occasionally the scar may become hypertrophic or Keloid (raised and red). Some people are prone to this. There is sometimes an area of numbness around the scar. This is more troublesome in some locations than others. The numbness often improves with time but some may be permanent.

Infection (<1%)
An infection at a surgical site is uncommon and typically is mild and superficial and would be expected to settle with oral (tablet) antibiotics. If there is any concern the surgeon or hospital should be contacted. Rarely there is a deep infection which may require re-admission to hospital for intravenous (through a drip) antibiotics. Occasionally surgical treatment is required.

Neuro-Vascular damage (Damage to nerve or blood vessels)
Orthopaedic surgery is often undertaken very close to important blood vessels and nerves. Damage to these vessels is very rare but can be very serious.

Stiffness
With any injury or operation around a joint there is a small risk of developing a stiff joint afterwards. This should get better, often with a period of physiotherapy but does occasionally require surgical treatment.

Bleeding
Blood loss is typically not significant in upper limb surgery. However bruising is very common and lasts for a week or two. Open shoulder operations where a tourniquet cannot be used are most at risk. Occasionally enough bleeding occurs to make a patient anaemic (low blood count). Most people can tolerate mild anaemia with no problems and this will improve over time often with the help of iron supplements. Blood transfusion is rarely required and usually in patients with significant pre-existing medical conditions like angina or heart failure.

Problems relating to implants
Implants such as plates and screws, sutures, bone anchors and joint replacements are commonly used in orthopaedic surgery. Many are designed to hold things in place while the body heals itself. All have a small risk of working loose and migrating if healing does not occur. They may also cause some local irritation at the insertion site. Joint replacement materials all wear out over time although most modern devices will last for at least 10 years.

Change in symptoms
While the probability of symptom improvement is high it remains possible that symptoms may remain unchanged or deteriorate.

Re-operation (further surgery)
Any of the problems listed above may result in the need for further surgery.

PHONE
(02) 9587 4720

Sydney Orthopaedic Trauma and Reconstructive Surgery
Suite 5, Level 2
19 Kensington Street
Kogarah NSW 2217

Orthopaedic & Arthritis Specialist Centre
Level 2, Gallery Arcade
445 Victoria Avenue
Chatswood NSW 2067