Mentally Preparing for Surgery

Many studies have shown that patients who spend some time mentally preparing for surgery not only recover more quickly but have better outcomes than those who don't.

But what is mental preparation and how do we set about doing it?

Mentally Preparing
Accepting There is a Problem


The first part of the process is in acknowledging that something has gone wrong. Accepting that your body has become damaged in some way either from disease or trauma; and, importantly, that it is not going to mend itself. Surgery is needed.

During the process of mentally preparing for the surgical process it is usual to feel resentment and to question why it is you that has been afflicted in this way. It is also common to experience anger, sadness or fear.

Other issues that may come up are concerns about getting older and, perhaps with that, a sense of your own mortality. These are difficult issues and it will help you talk though them with someone - more on that later.

Mentally Preparing

Having a total hip replacement involves losing part of yourself - quite literally; are you mentally prepared for that?

Although your diseased or injured joint may be limiting your mobility and causing you severe pain it is yours and the new, pain-free version, is going to be a foreign object. For many people that does take some getting used to.

Mentally Preparing
Gaining Knowledge

Learning about the procedure is an important part of mentally preparing yourself.


Do you really understand what is going to happen to you? research Are you sure you're getting the right sort of implant/fixation/operation? Do you know what the risks are? What the outcome will be like? All good questions; the more you understand the process the better.

The most important person to talk to will be your surgeon. Please remember that no two hip replacements are exactly the same and the only person who will really understand your individual case is the surgeon who is going to be operating.

However do bear in mind that you won't have many opportunities to talk him and you need to make the most of those that you do. So mentally preparing for the consultation is essential too! I strongly advise you to read as much as you can and make a list of questions to ask so nothing gets forgotten.

For me, my need for a hip replacement came totally out of the blue and in many ways I wasn't fully prepared. Although I could have delayed surgery I was simply in too much pain to even consider that. My surgeon willingly answered all my questions - the problem was that I didn't know what to ask. I will next time! All the time I am working on this website I am mentally preparing for my next operation.

I really hope this site will provide you with lots of answers. If there's something missing please let me know and I'll be happy to add it in.

Mentally Preparing for Recovery

It may seem very odd but if you've been in pain, had limited mobility and been reliant on others for a long time you need to consider mentally preparing for recovery!

Being pain free and able-bodied will impact on all aspects of your life - which of course is brilliant. But do stop and consider how it will impact on other people's lives. Think about who has been taking over your roles both at work and at home? Are they going to be happy or reluctant to give them up? Your recovery is going to bring about changes for other people as well as yourself and they need time to adjust.

Be Prepared to Celebrate

You should also think about what life is going to be like post-op. Imagine living pain free again, being able to walk easily, being off medication! That, after all, is why you're going through this whole process. Giving yourself time to look forward to the future will help you get through what is going to be a difficult time.

Look forward to your future.

Where to Get Information and Support

There is a lot of information on the internet about hip replacements but, in my experience, it is either fragmented or pretty superficial.

hip replacement forum

Hip replacement discussion groups.  There are lots of these about and you'll find me on some of the Face Book ones. They offer good support but the advice given should be treated with caution. Forum members tend to be very knowledgeable about one type of procedure, the one they had, and often forget that there are many other variables that need to be discussed for instance types of implants and fixation methods and the approach used. 

Family and Friends. These can be great or awful! Quite often those close to us feel that their role is to free us from worry and so rather than listening and understanding our concerns they simply say that there's "nothing to worry about" or tell us not to do research into the procedure as it'll "only worry us more". This may work for some people but most people who ask questions about the process want answers not to be fobbed off my well-meaning friends.

Counselling. If you feel that you're not able to get the support you need from family and friends then ask your GP to refer you to the practice counsellor. Most surgeries have one or have access to one these days. You may also want to think of seeing someone privately.

Support at the Hospital. Some hospitals in the USA bring together a group of hip replacement patients before the operation. They have their pre-op assessments and other preliminary work done together and can keep in touch via email. When it comes time for surgery they will all be admitted at about the same time and to the same area of the hospital. They will meet regularly, take meals together and share physiotherapy. Going through the whole process with other people in this way has been found to be beneficial.

Are You Mentally Ready

If you've worked through all the above ideas then yes you are. If not perhaps you need to ask yourself if there is something you are trying to avoid, do try to find someone to discuss that with. Remember patients who are mentally well prepared have faster recovery times and better outcomes.

Related Links: 

Preparing for Recovery 
The Day of Surgery

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