Orthopaedic Surgeon

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Please select the section below to view the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) we receive from patients.

New Patient

Before My Surgery

Surgery Concerns

After My Surgery

Orthopaedic Surgeons

FAQ: New Patients

Please read through this list for answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from patients.

Should you need to reschedule or cancel your appointment, or have any questions prior to your first appointment, please contact our Referral Coordinator at 403-760-2897 Ext 7.

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.

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.

We 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.

Please refer to the Your Appointment section for further details.

Once a referral is received by our office, it will be reviewed by our surgeons.

If accepted we will advise the referring provider and you will be contacted by our Referral and Booking Coordinator.

If we are unable to accept your referral, we will notify the referring provider. Our surgeons will only accept referrals they have the expertise to treat and/or that can be safely managed in our rural hospital.

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.

Refer to the Referral Information  page for additional information.

Orthopaedic Surgeons

FAQ: Before My Surgery

Please read through this list for answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from patients. Please contact our Surgical Coordinator via email or at 403-760-2897 Ext 4 should you have additional questions.

Surgeries are performed at the Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.

Dr. Heard and Dr. Kopka also perform surgery at the Golden & District Hospital and Hinton Healthcare Centre.

Yes, you may cancel or postpone your surgery. However if you cancel your already scheduled surgery you will placed back on our Surgical waitlist and it may be some time before we can reschedule your surgery.

Please note that your approval for surgery paperwork is only valid for one year after your initial appointment with your surgeon. If you do not have your surgery within one year, your surgery approval may no longer be valid and you may be required to start the assessment and approval process again.

If you need to cancel your surgery please call our Surgical Coordinator as soon as possible at 403-760-2897 Ext 4. We require as much notice as possible of a surgery cancellation so that we can book another patient into your surgery time.

Please discuss pain management with your surgeon, sport medicine or family doctor. Some options are bracing, cold-therapy, physiotherapy, exercises, medications, and injections.

In order to stay active before your surgery it is important to find out what you should and should not do. Ask your surgeon or sport medicine physician how active you should be, some sports or activities may cause more damage while others may be beneficial.

Staying active before surgery will keep your muscles strong and may decrease your recovery time after surgery.

Refer to your surgery folder for pre-surgery rehabilitation protocols (those applicable to your injury).  This information may be found under Your Injury or Resources sections of our website.

Yes, as long as you have valid coverage your orthopaedic surgery will be covered by your provincial health care plan.

Physiotherapy visits after your surgery may be covered by your provincial health care plan (Alberta Health Care does cover a limited number of visits) at designated clinics.  Your surgeon will provide you with a referral if needed.

Items such as crutches, splints, slings, cold therapy units and prescriptions are not covered by most provincial health care plans. Some of these items may be covered by third-party insurance (private health care); please keep your receipts and and submit to your private health care plan.

We require a signed authorization form (by the patient or guardian if under the age of 18th) on file prior to releasing information to a third party.  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 send or deliver them to our office ahead of time (clearly marked with your name) or bring them with you to your next appointment.  Although the surgeons do their best to complete forms as soon as possible, it may take a few weeks before they are completed.

Please note the cost for filling out forms is not covered by provincial health insurance, you will be required to pay a fee.  These fees can range between $25 and $100 depending on the form.

The anaesthetic you receive for your surgery will depend on the type of surgery you are having, as well as your general health.  The hospital 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 only 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.

The length of stay is dependent on your type of surgery. It can vary from 6 to 8 hours (day surgery), up to 2 or 3 nights in hospital. If you stay overnight, you should be able to go home at 12:00 (noon) on your discharge day. Most knee surgeries are day surgery only and do not require an overnight hospital stay.

Orthopaedic Surgeons

FAQ: Surgery Concerns

Please read through this list for common questions and concerns following surgery. Also refer to our  Surgery Information section on our website, the Surgery Folder provided by our office at your last appointment and/or the information provided by the hospital after you surgery. Please contact our office (403-760-2897 Ext 1 or 4) should you have additional questions or concerns.

Post-Operative Concerns

Opioid Information

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 of regular business hours (Monday to Friday 8 am to 4 pm), 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Uncontrolled pain, if the prescribed painkiller (Tylenol #3, Tramacet or Percocet) is not controlling your pain, you may also take ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) up to 600 mg every 6 hours in addition to the prescribed medication. Try not to take ibuprofen on an empty stomach. However, if you have already been prescribed Naproxen (Naprosyn), do not take ibuprofen at the same time. Other actions such as loosening the tensor bandage, elevating the leg and ice packs can also help.

Calf, foot and ankle pain and swelling within the first 2 weeks after knee surgery is common. If you have calf pain and swelling you should loosen the tensor bandage around your knee and also elevate your leg so that your knee and ankle are above your heart. (Please see the Cold Therapy and Elevation picture on the first page of your rehabilitation protocol). If this does not improve the pain and swelling, please contact us. If the pain and swelling is associated with sudden chest pain and/or shortness of breath immediately go to the nearest emergency department.

Swelling and redness of the shin after ACL or other knee ligament surgery is not uncommon. Contact us only if the redness extends into the surgical incision sites or if there is persistent drainage of fluid (yellowish or cloudy fluid) after removing your bandage at the recommended time.

Swelling of the hand is common after shoulder and elbow surgery. This swelling can be prevented or reduced by frequent pumping of the fingers (or squeezing a rubber or foam ball) and by taking your arm out of the sling and fully straightening your elbow (as when doing a pendulum exercise).

Skin redness above or below the bandages, when you get home from the hospital, you may notice that the skin is red above or below the bandage. The most likely cause of this is the surgical preparation solution that was used to clean your skin before the operation. This solution has a red dye in it so if you are concerned that the redness may be caused by an infection, try washing that area with soap and water to see if it comes off. If your leg is still red and/or hot to touch after you have washed the area, then you should go to your local doctor or hospital to be assessed.

A fever is not uncommon within the first 48 hours after surgery. Call us only if the fever continues more than 2 days after surgery and is associated with a feeling of general unwellness. Fevers occurring within the first 48 hours post-operatively can be managed with Tylenol and deep breathing exercises.

A small amount of bleeding through the bandage can occur within the first 48 hours after surgery. Call the office or hospital if the bandage becomes saturated with blood, or if bleeding continues after removing the bandage at the recommended time.

For post-operative nausea and vomiting if you can tolerate the pain, try stopping your prescribed painkiller, or take gravol (can be purchased over the counter in pill and suppository form). Sometimes taking the painkiller with food will help. Call us if you have uncontrolled vomiting.

Occasionally, an itchy, red, blotchy skin rash can occur with the use of ice packs or a cold therapy unit. This is not an infection but is a skin reaction to the cold. This can happen when cold is used for long periods of time, even when a cloth is used to protect the skin. If this happens, stop using the cold therapy until the rash settles down (this may take hours or even a day or two). When you start using cold therapy again, apply it intermittently (20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off).

After ACL surgery using your hamstring tendons, it is not uncommon to strain or pull the hamstring muscle in the first 6-weeks after surgery. This may occur while pulling on your socks or shoes, or bending over to pick something up. You may feel a sudden painful “pop” in the back of your knee or lower thigh. This does not mean that you have torn your ACL graft and the pain will settle down within a few days. You may also notice some bruising or swelling at the back of your thigh. However, if the pain is not improving after a few days, or is associated with a significant increase in knee swelling, please call our office and not the hospital, as this concern can wait until regular office hours.

When you remove your bandage for the first time, you may notice a clear string that looks like fishing line sticking out of the skin near the incision(s). This is a biodegradable stitch or suture that is used to close the skin incision. It will eventually fall off. However, you may snip these clear strings off at the level of the skin as early as 2 weeks after surgery, or you can wait to have this done by your surgeon at your first follow-up appointment. After removing your bandage, avoid the temptation to touch your healing incisions as your own hands are the most common source of bacteria which can cause wound infections.

Steri-strips are white strips of tape that are used to reinforce the stitching of the skin incisions. You may peel these strips of tape off by yourself 2-weeks after surgery, by which time the incision should be healed.

Orthopaedic Surgeons

FAQ: After My Surgery

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 refer to your surgery instructions and rehabilitation protocols provided by our office at your last appointment and information provided by the hospital after you surgery as well as the Your Injury section of the website. Please contact our office (403-760-2897 Ext 1 or 4) should you have additional questions.

If you feel you are having complications please refer to the section above, FAQ: Surgery Concerns.

We require a signed authorization form (by the patient or guardian if under the age of 18th) on file prior to releasing information to a third party.  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 send or deliver them to our office ahead of time (clearly marked with your name) or bring them with you to your next appointment.  Although the surgeons do their best to complete forms as soon as possible, it may take a few weeks before they are completed.

Please note the cost for filling out forms is not covered by provincial health insurance, you will be required to pay a fee.  These fees can range between $25 and $100 depending on the form.

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.

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.