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Hip Replacement Surgery Tip #53: I Thought They Were Going To Knock Me Out, Instead I Got Something From A Movie… ‘Spinal Tap’

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Surgery While Awake

I thought I would be wheeled into the operating suite, get gassed with anesthesia,


then have my hip replacement. Well, it is a bit more complicated.

spinal tap

You’ve Got Some Nerve – Hmm, I always thought Spinal Tap was just a movie. Apparently there are two common ways to receive anesthesia for surgery; General, where they put a mask on you and run a tube down your throat and the second method is a spinal. I asked the orthopedic physician’s assistant which method most people opt for and he said, “Ninety percent do a spinal nerve block.” I then asked which method he would select for himself and he confirmed the spinal tap.

Easy Decision – Based on these early election results I opted for the spinal method. Since I was already on my side, the staff member touched one of my vertebrae and like a bony abacus, he counted down until he reached the correct place. The resident anesthesiologist asked for a needle, was handed one, and just before insertion he asks for the next larger size. He then inserts the jumbo needle into my back, performing a spinal tap to block pain. Fortunately I had reviewed the a la carte menu and had ordered the optional feature where then not only do the spinal tap, they also knock you out (definitely select this option).

Advantage Of A Nerve Block – A nerve block decreases the amount of narcotic pain medication required. In this way, you can be more alert with lower chances of nausea and constipation. Not that you will be standing right away, but you must have hospital staff next to you when you attempt to stand due to the strength of the medication.

Surgery While Awake

Some Patients Even Stay Awake During The Hip Replacement – This is an option for those who are not faint of heart, who want to update their Facebook Hip Replacement Group status every few minutes or who think their orthopod wants to hear your version of Layla over and over during your THR. You can do this… but most patients don’t.

“Hmm… So That’s A Catheter?” Just before I ‘went under’ I saw the OR nurse holding a very long, skinny plastic tube. Since I had been repositioned to my back, I only saw the nurse out of the corner of my eye. He was holding tubing from outstretched from one arm to the arm and back it again. The last time I had seen someone with outstretched arms this way was 40 years ago when my grandmother was at a fabric store measuring out a couple of yards of material to make herself something. Even though I was without my glasses, I thought, “Hmm, that is awfully long. That’s not a catheter, is it? I just knew I should of had a Brazilian before surgery.”

Read more about my revenge of the catheter – sample below

Before the catheter: I could cut down an entire swath of bamboo trees with my urination stream.

Children would flee… Women would gasp… Men would cheer!

Counting Backwards From 100 – I was expecting to have to count back from 100 to prove that I was under the control of anesthesia. I was going to be a ‘smart ass’ and count forward by prime numbers. They never asked me, instead I sorta’ heard the a whirling sound, sorta’ like the fan/helicopter sounds from the opening scene of Apocalypse Now.

Next I was fast forwarded in the movie to the scene where the Doors sing The End. It was a very strange blackness.

Still Counting Backwards From 100 – I had one more ready-to-pass-out gaze from the operating table and everyone suddenly looked like the kid from Deliverance. And with that thought I was gone, totally blacked out and unaware of anything from that point forward. Probably a good thing. Unlike when you walk into a lightless room and you sense the absence of light, when you start to ‘go under’ the blackness not only comes to you, it permeates your very being. Actually, a really good thing – I can’t get much past 37.

I Put A Spell On You While I was totally under the influence of the IV cocktail, I later learned of the details involving my surgery. The operation begins as an incision is cut from the top of my femur bone up towards my right buttock. My hip surgery class assured me that no muscle would be cut. Depending upon your orthopedic physician, and how artistic they are, as well as their technique for doing the initial skin cut, you get somewhere between a long straight incision resembling Frankenstein’s stitches to a more graceful, Nike-esque swoosh cutting of your skin. I guess I opted for the permanent, upside down, smiley face scar. It’s cute in a way, but I assume that design is already trademarked.


The orthopod’s strong hands next cuts off the head to my femur. I can only assume, based on interest I created with my dislocation sound, that my femur head was passed around like a joint at a college dorm room so everyone can have a look and comment as well. My orthopod then drilled a hole down the middle of my thigh bone and finally, like the Golden Spike of the first transcontinental railroad, he hammered the balled, metal-stemmed prosthesis inside my bone.

My Hip Replacement

My Hip Replacement

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