I’m really looking forward to the moment in the future when the only part of this advice includes the questions and not to bring hard copies of your medical history.
Physicians are under pressure to see patients in a timely, effective, and efficient manner. Take a little time, organize your thoughts, come prepared and your visit could be much more productive.
What to bring:
- Pad and pen… you will likely receive recommendations and many patients forget them as soon as they leave the office.
- A list of your medical problems
- A list of your medications
- A list of your prior surgeries
- A copy of pertinent studies (MRI, X-ray, etc)
- A copy of pertinent medical records (valuable for second opinions).
Dress appropriately. The physician will need to see the area of concern.
Organize your thoughts: A new orthopedic history will include…
- When did the problem start?
- What were you doing?
- Have you started taking any new medications?
- Have you changed your exercise program?
- What makes the pain worse?
- What makes the pain better?
- Do you have pain at night?
- Does it awaken you?
- Any numbness, tingling or weakness?
- Any morning stiffness?
- Pain getting up from a seated position?
- Pain walking on hills?
- Shoulder patients consider what motion causes your symptoms.
- Do you have any mechanical symptoms (catching, locking, clicking, etc)?
- Do you have any instability (does the joint feel loose)?
- Do you have any swelling?
- How does the pain affect your quality of life?
- What have you tried so far to obtain relief (physical therapy, injections, medications, exercise, etc)?
After the exam and discussion of the findings, your doctor will likely present you with alternatives….some thoughts you should have.
- What are the possible diagnoses?
- Is further testing necessary (If the test will not change the plan of care, then it is possible that you do not require further tests)?
- Is an MRI or expensive imaging necessary (many times it is not)?
- What are the non-surgical, surgical alternatives available to treat my condition?
- What are the possible risks, side effects of the treatment?
- What will happen if I choose not to have surgery?
- What does the literature or research recommend (many physicians still practice based on anecdotal experience [which might be appropriate, depending on the situation])
Specific considerations for surgical patients.
- What are reasonably forseeable risks of the surgical procedure?
- What are the realistic goals of the procedure (relief of pain, functional improvement, etc)?
- What is my “expected recovery time (recovery means different things to different people… be VERY CLEAR about your goals)
- When can I use my arm/leg?
- When can I l use my arm/leg for activities of daily living?
- When can I use my arm/leg against resistance (lifting objects or putting weight on your leg)?
- When can I drive?
- Do you know what I do for a living? When can I return to work?
Hopefully this will help you on your next visit….
of course you understand that this does not constitute medical advice and you should only use this as a guide to improve your preparation for a visit to an orthopedic surgeon or any physician for that matter.