Q: I'm having a hip replacement in the fall (mini anterior), and I'm a bit worried about the surgery itself and about "going under." Am I being overanxious? — Rachel F., Fort Worth, Texas
A: More than 332,000 folks in North American have hip replacement surgery annually. But just because a lot of folks have this operation, doesn't mean it's not a big deal. You need to have a detailed conversation with your surgeon about the parts and surgical technique that will be used and with your anesthesiologist about the options available to manage pain and awareness during surgery.
A mini anterior surgery means the surgeon uses a 4-inch incision to go in from the front (anterior), without cutting through your large hip muscles. This technique speeds up recovery time. You're up and about sooner than if the surgeon goes in from the side or back. Surgeons may opt for a lateral or posterior incision, however, especially if you've had a prior hip replacement, are obese, very muscular or have a wide pelvis.
General anesthesia is frequently used during this kind of surgery. Although it's much less risky than it used to be, post-anesthesia cognitive problems remain a concern, particularly for the elderly. These days many surgeons and anesthesiologists favor regional anesthesia; it results in less blood loss and improved pain control after surgery and negative results are extremely rare. Regional or local anesthesia is commonly administered as a spinal block (a numbing agent injected into the fluid surrounding your spinal cord); an epidural block (administered through a catheter inserted into the lower back); or a peripheral nerve block (it affects the major thigh nerves in the leg on which they are going to operate). You also can get a sedative, so you're not aware of what's going on. So don't forget to discuss all these choices with your doctor in the weeks BEFORE you head to the OR.
Q: I love my wooden cutting board, but I keep hearing that to avoid food-borne illness I should be using plastic instead. Is it healthier to make the switch? — Doris E., Livingston, Montana
A: The debate over which is healthier — a wooden or a plastic cutting board — seems never to get resolved one way or the other. Our take: Keep your wooden board. A consistently well-cleaned, not-deeply-scarred wooden cutting board made from a fine-grained hardwood is safe to use. The best woods to use include bamboo, which is particularly impervious, as well as maple, walnut, cherry, teak, ash and birch.
But you still have to be careful! With a wooden cutting board, separate surfaces must be used to cut fresh veggies/fruits and raw meat/poultry/fish to avoid cross-contamination; there's sometimes salmonella (in raw chicken) and E coli (in ground turkey meat), for example. And after you cut animal products on a wooden board, you have to wash it using hot water, strong soap or a dilute bleach solution, and a disposable dishcloth (no sponges — they retain bacteria and can add it to the board). Then rinse well. And make sure your board is completely dry before you use it again. Wood boards do have antibacterial properties, but they may absorb bacteria that can live for a few hours below the wood's surface, even after washing.
A plastic board doesn't absorb bacteria, and it's dishwasher-proof. But once the plastic surface becomes scored or cut, it's a great bacteria magnet — and a plastic board gets cut up pretty quickly. Then even the dishwasher can't get it completely clean.
Typically, plastic boards are made from polyethylene. And while some forms of that plastic may leach hormone disruptors, there's no proof it does so in this hardened state. We say it's your call on the risks of this plastic, but we know that some, like the polyethylene terephthalate used to make clear plastic bottles, are worth staying clear of. And knock on wood, wooden cutting boards have been used for millennia.