Frequently Asked Questions
Please read through this list for answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from patients. If you have already had your surgery, please also read your surgery instructions and rehabilitation protocol for more detailed information.
Before My Appointment
Do I need an MRI to see a Surgeon?
- No, an MRI is not required for you to book an appointment with a surgeon. In fact, most injuries can be reliably diagnosed from the history you provide and the physical examination completed by your doctor. Your doctor will give you a plan to manage your injury and you will not usually need to have an MRI.
- Also, if you have an MRI that shows you have an injury it does not necessarily mean that you need surgery. For example, injury to the knee menisci can occur in people over the age of 40 due to wear and tear. Research has shown that surgery is not any better than rehabilitation for improving most of these degenerative meniscal tears.
Will getting an MRI expedite my appointment or surgery?
- No, having an MRI will not expedite your initial appointment or surgery. An MRI is a diagnostic imaging test that is sometimes used to confirm a clinical diagnosis. If your injury is more difficult to diagnose, your surgeon or sport medicine doctor may send you for an MRI before deciding on treatment.
- It is also important to know that an MRI is not 100% accurate and therefore it is just one of the assessment tools a doctor can use to decide on the best way to care for your injury.
What should I do while I’m waiting to see the Orthopaedic Surgeon?
- While you are waiting for your appointment there are many things that you can do to help control your symptoms and be as active as possible.
- We recommend you see a sport medicine doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment of your injury. Treatments may include bracing, medications, cold therapy and physiotherapy.
- We also recommend that you stay as active as possible by continuing with walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, going to the gym or other activities that do not flare up your injury.
How do I book an appointment?
- All three surgeons see new patients every week in their clinics. You can find more information in the Appointments section.
- All new referrals are reviewed by the surgeons and triaged for appointments based on injury acuity.
- An appointment with a surgeon is for one injury, if you have multiple injuries (for example, a knee as well as a shoulder problem), you may need to have several appointments.
Where are we?
What do I bring to my appointment?
- Please fill out and bring all of the required forms specified for your injury in the Forms section.
- If you are being seen for a lower extremity injury, please bring a pair of shorts and running shoes.
- If you are being seen for an upper extremity injury, please wear a tank top or a loose shirt.
- You will need a valid Healthcare Card and identification (ID) for all appointments at the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital and the Golden Hospital.
Why do I have to see a Sport Medicine Physician?
- A sport medicine doctor is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries. These doctors specialize in treating many types of musculoskeletal injuries that may or may not require surgery. Your sport medicine doctor can make sure that all non-operative treatments have been tried before you are referred to a surgeon.
- The sport medicine doctor will provide you with a care plan to follow before you see the surgeon. This care plan can help you to stay active such as providing you with exercises, recommending physiotherapy, or using a brace. The sport medicine doctor will also make sure that all of the necessary investigations are done before you see the surgeon, for example x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan or MRI, as needed.
- The sport medicine doctor will help you with your non-operative recovery and if needed, will refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon for a surgery consultation. This system is designed so that you receive the best care for your injury regardless of whether or not you need surgery.
If I have seen one of the surgeons or sport medicine doctors in the past, can I make a new appointment?
- If you have seen the surgeon or doctor in the past year for the same injury, you can book a follow-up appointment with the relevant medical office assistant.
- If you would like an appointment with the surgeon or sport medicine doctor to discuss a different or new injury you will need a new referral before an appointment can be booked.
- If it has been more than one year since you last saw the surgeon or sport medicine doctor for the same injury, you will need to get a new referral before you can book an appointment.
Before My Surgery
**Please review the pre-operative information sheet and surgery folder that was given to you during your consultation appointment for detailed information.**
Where will I have my surgery?
- Surgeries are performed at the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.
- Dr. Heard also performs arthroscopic surgery at Golden Hospital once a month.
Do I have to come to Banff for follow-up appointments after my surgery?
- Yes, all follow-up clinics are held in Banff.
- The number of follow-up appointments you need to come to depends on the type of surgery you had.
Can I cancel or postpone my surgery?
- Yes, you can cancel or postpone your surgery. If you cancel you will go back onto the waiting list for surgery. Please note that your approval for surgery is only valid for one year after your appointment with the surgeon. If you do not have your surgery within one year, your surgery approval will no longer be valid and you will have to start the assessment process over again.
- If you need to cancel your surgery please call our office and speak with the medical office assistant for your surgeon. We need as much notice as possible so that we can book another patient into your surgery time.
- You may cancel or defer your surgery up to three (3) times. If you cancel or defer three (3) times you will require a new referral to see the orthopaedic surgeon, and will need to go back through the consultation and surgery approval process.
How do I control pain before my surgery?
- Please discuss pain management with your surgeon, sport medicine or family doctor. Some options are bracing, cold-therapy, physiotherapy, exercises, medications, and injections.
Can I make my injury worse by being active before my surgery?
- In order to stay active before your surgery it is important to find out what you should and should not do. You should ask your surgeon or sport medicine doctor how active you can be with your injury because certain sports and activities might cause more damage while others will be beneficial.
- Staying active before surgery will keep your muscles strong and will decrease how long it takes you to recover after your surgery. We recommend you continue with walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, going to the gym or other activities that do not flare up your injury.
- If you received a surgery information folder at the time of your appointment, there will be a pre-surgery rehabilitation programme inside for you to follow. You can also find this information under the knee and shoulder sections on the website for each type of surgery.
- Your surgeon might recommend that you see a physical therapist to learn a series of exercises to better prepare you for surgery.
Is the cost of my surgery covered by Alberta Health Care?
- Yes, as long as you have valid coverage your orthopaedic surgery will be covered by Alberta Health Care. After your surgery, with a referral from your surgeon, Alberta Health Care also covers some physiotherapy visits at designated clinics.
- Items such as crutches, splints, slings, cold therapy units and prescriptions are not covered by Alberta Health Care. Some of these items may be covered by third-party insurance; please check with your provider to see what benefits you can claim.
What do I do with forms that I need filled out by the doctor?
- Please be aware that forms cannot be released until you have signed an authorization. Many insurers and employers will have this authorization form attached to the forms you need the doctor to complete. Please complete this authorization before you send or give the forms to our clinic.
- If you have forms for the surgeon to fill out, please fax them or mail them to the office or bring them to your appointment. Although we do our best to complete forms as soon as possible, it may be a few weeks before they can be returned to you.
- If you are having surgery, your forms cannot be filled out by the surgeon until after your surgery. Please send or bring the forms to our office before your surgery date and the medical office assistants will make sure your surgeon completes the forms.
- The cost for filling out forms is not covered by provincial health insurance and you must pay the fee. The cost ranges from $25-$75 depending on the length of the forms.
Can I pay for my surgery and get it faster?
- No, there is currently no way to do this in Alberta.
What type of anaesthetic will I have?
- The anaesthetic you receive for your surgery will depend on the type of surgery you are having, as well as your general health. The anaesthetist will discuss the options for your surgery (and the risks and benefits of each of these), with you prior to your surgery.
- Knee arthroscopy is usually done with a local anaesthetic (freezing just in the knee joint), with or without sedation. Other knee surgeries such as ACL reconstruction can be done with a spinal anaesthetic (frozen from the waist down), or general anaesthetic (go to sleep). Shoulder surgery usually requires a general anaesthetic.
How long will I be in hospital?
- The length of stay varies based on your surgery. It can vary from 6-8 hours (day surgery), up to 2 or 3 nights in hospital. If you stay overnight, you should be able to go home around 12:00 (noon) on your discharge day. Most knee surgeries are day surgery only and do not require you to stay overnight.
After My Surgery
**Please refer to your pre-operative information sheet that was given to you during your consultation appointment for detailed information**
What do I do with forms that I need filled out by the doctor?
- Please be aware that forms cannot be released until you have signed an authorization. Many insurers and employers will have this authorization form attached to the forms you need the surgeon to complete. Please complete this authorization before you send or give the forms to our clinic.
- Please note that some insurance forms cannot be filled out by the surgeon until after your surgery. Please send or bring the forms to our office before your surgery date and the medical office assistants will make sure your surgeon completes the forms.
- If you have other forms for the surgeon to fill out, please fax them or mail them to the office or bring them to your next appointment. Although we do our best to complete forms as soon as possible, it may be a few weeks before they can be returned to you.
- The cost for filling out forms is not covered by provincial health insurance and you must pay the fee. The cost ranges from $25-75 depending on the length of the forms.
What should I do if I think that I am having a complication?
- Please contact our office at 403 -760-2897 if you are concerned about a surgery complication. If you leave a message please clearly say that you are concerned about a complication with your surgery.
- If you call outside business hours, please call the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital at 403-762-2222. There is always an orthopaedic surgeon on call. If you are unable to come to Banff to be seen for your complication, please go to your family doctor or the nearest urgent care clinic or emergency department.
How do I manage my pain after surgery?
- All types of surgeries are painful for a period of time. In general, the most painful time is the first 72 hours (3 days) after surgery. The amount of pain usually decreases each day after this.
- You will be given medication recommendations, and if required, a prescription to manage your pain after surgery. We also recommend resting for most of the first few days, elevating your surgical limb, and using ice or cold therapy to help you manage your pain.
- If you have increasing pain despite spending a lot of time resting with your surgery limb elevated, or pain that does not decrease with medication, you may have an infection or other complication. You should call our office at 403-760-2897, or outside business hours, please call the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital at 403-762-2222.
Is it normal to have numbness around my surgery incisions?
- Yes, this is normal. Depending on where your incision is, there are small skin nerves that are cut during surgery. Often these numb patches get smaller with time but you may be left with a numb patch around, or close to, your incision.
Is it normal to have redness around my surgery incisions?
- A small amount of redness is normal. However, if the red area is extremely painful or growing in size, you may have an infection in the skin. If you are concerned that you have an infection, please call our office at 403-760-2897, or outside business hours, call the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital at 403-762-2222. Alternately, please go to your family doctor or the nearest urgent care clinic or emergency department.
Will I need sutures (stitches) removed?
- This depends on what type of surgery you had. Most of the sutures (stitches) that the surgeons use are absorbable and are under the skin, so they don’t need to be removed.
- You may see small pieces of suture that look like clear fishing line sticking out the end of your incisions; you can cut these off level with your skin 2-weeks after your surgery. If you don’t cut these sutures your surgeon will do it for you at your follow-up visit. If you leave these sutures they will eventually absorb and break off by themselves.
Can I shower after my surgery?
- We recommend you wait 4 days before taking a shower. To minimize the risk of post-operative infection please do not soak in a bathtub, swim in a lake or pool, or go into a hot tub until your incisions are completely healed. This will be a minimum of 3-weeks after surgery.
When can I return to work and sports?
- The length of time before you can return to work or sport will depend on your injury, the type of surgery, and the nature of your work (i.e. sedentary vs. heavy manual labor), or sport (i.e. low vs. high contact/intensity). Your surgery instructions sheet and post-operative protocol will give you some general guidelines but please ask your surgeon any specific questions that you have about returning to work or sport.
When can I drive?
- It is illegal to drive while you're taking opioids (strong pain medications). Insurance companies also have different regulations about restrictions on coverage after having surgery. We recommend that you check with your insurance company for any restrictions that apply.
- Please discuss when it is safe for you to return to driving with your surgeon during your first follow-up appointment.