Does it matter where I do my rehabilitation therapy after hip replacement surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm having hip replacement surgery next month. I know I'll need rehabilitation afterward, but does it matter where I do it?

DEAR READER: It's been routine after hip replacement surgery to have extensive physical therapy. This rehabilitation therapy, or "rehab," usually consists of a series of outpatient appointments with a physical therapist, as well as exercises to do at home. The goal of rehab is to improve the strength, stamina and balance of walking.

Have there been any recent advances in cataract surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My husband had cataract surgery 10 years ago. Now it's my turn. Have there been any advances in the past decade that I should know about?

DEAR READER: A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. It commonly causes poor vision and blindness among older adults. But cataracts can be surgically removed and replaced with artificial lenses. In fact, cataract surgery has become fairly routine. The vast majority of people who undergo this procedure have excellent outcomes.

Do I need surgery for a torn meniscus?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My knees hurt a lot, more on the left. At 76 years young, I guess I should expect that. An MRI scan shows I have a "torn meniscus" in my right knee, and arthritis in both knees. Is there anything to be done?

DEAR READER: Before I can answer your interesting question, I need to provide some basic information. The meniscus is a crescent-shaped disk of fibrous tissue and cartilage. Each knee has two menisci located between the thighbone (femur) and the lower leg bone (tibia).

Are there any good surgical options to treat emphysema?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My mother has severe emphysema. Medication and oxygen therapy aren't helping much anymore. Are there any good surgical options?

DEAR READER: Emphysema is a long-term lung problem that makes it harder and harder to breathe as the disease progresses. It is often grouped together with chronic bronchitis under the label of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Are cochlear implants a type of hearing aid?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm hard of hearing and want to learn more about cochlear implants. Are they a type of hearing aid?

DEAR READER: A cochlear implant involves several small electronic devices that are surgically implanted in the ear. It can provide sound to people who are severely hard of hearing or deaf. It is not a type of hearing aid. In fact, to be eligible for a cochlear implant, a person must have hearing loss in both ears that is so extreme that even the best hearing aid has little or no effect.

Should I have arthroscopic knee surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a lifelong runner with severe knee pain. I hate the thought of surgery, but hear it's not such a big deal these days, using arthroscopy. How do I know if I'm a good candidate for it?

DEAR READER: Arthroscopy is a technique used to diagnose problems in the knees and other joints. If a problem requiring surgery is identified, arthroscopic surgery can be performed. To appreciate how valuable arthroscopic surgery is, you have to understand what things were like back in the "old days" -- like when I was in medical school.

My toddler gets frequent ear infections. Should we consider surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My toddler gets frequent ear infections. His doctor wants me to consider surgery, but that seems much too aggressive to me. Am I wrong?

DEAR READER: I'm not sure what kind of surgery your pediatrician is recommending, but I'll bet it involves putting in ear tubes. I'll explain that below. Ear infections are very common and can make children miserable. Most go away and don't cause problems, even without treatment. But a few can lead to complications, including more serious infections of the bone near the ear or even the brain.

What happens during a C-section?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says she is going to have to deliver my baby by C-section. What will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: A cesarean delivery, or C-section, is surgery to deliver a baby through the abdomen. It may be scheduled in advance when a woman cannot or should not deliver the baby through the vagina. A C-section may also be performed if continuing with labor or delivery becomes risky to the mother or baby. Finally, a cesarean may be done as an emergency procedure if there is immediate risk to a mother or baby.

Should I be worried about complications from a hip replacement?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says I need hip replacement surgery. She says it will help my pain. But I'm worried about complications. Should I be?

DEAR READER: I get a lot of questions about hip replacement surgery, and I'm in a good position to answer them: I had a hip replacement about a decade ago. Before I give a more detailed answer, let me cut to the chase: The benefits of hip replacement surgery greatly outweigh the risks.