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Promoting the Healing Process Following Joint Replacement

Promoting the Healing Process Following Joint Replacement

By Margaret Vence, DPT, ATRIC

With each passing year we learn more about how bodies heal and we develop new ways to promote that process. In the realm of joint replacement surgery, doctors and physical therapists have developed a new regimen of pre- and post-operative patient care that has significantly improved clinical outcomes.

A number of important advances have contributed to this new approach to care. Joint replacement surgery is safer and easier for patients to endure due in large part to new approaches in surgical anesthesia and improved joint prostheses. In addition, better post-operative pain control makes it easier for patients to move around following surgery. These developments are critical because studies confirm that improved mobility immediately following joint surgery reduces recovery time.

Local specialists in orthopedic surgery, physical medicine, and physical therapy have collaborated in the development of a unified patient-care program for people with joint pain. By working together, we educate people in the community about joint pain and the options for treating it. This program, which we call "Joint Solutions," is multidisciplinary in nature and includes a comprehensive educational component about arthritis and joint replacement surgery.

Joint Solutions health-care professionals from Cayuga Medical Center present regularly scheduled free community information seminars on joint pain. We attract, among others, people who are suffering with hip or knee pain. We know, from patient histories, that there are many people suffering with knee and hip pain who have not fully explored all of their treatment options-and who believe there is nothing they can do about their joint pain.

The Joint Solutions community seminars focus on patient education. Four board-certified orthopedic surgeons are participating in Joint Solutions, all of whom have considerable experience in diagnosing and treating the various causes of joint pain. Contact information for these physicians is issued to you at the seminar.

If the outcome of your physician evaluation indicates joint replacement surgery, the staff at your orthopedist’s office will help you enroll in pre-operative classes through the Joint Solutions program. These classes include comprehensive information about joint replacement surgery and pre-operative exercises to prepare you for the operation. Clinical studies have proven that patients who perform exercise to increase their strength and flexibility prior to surgery have a significantly faster and more satisfactory recuperation.

Following joint replacement surgery at Cayuga Medical Center, you will recover in the joint care area of the hospital. Post-operative care in the Joint Care Center promotes wellness. Patients undergoing joint surgery are typically people who are not sick: they are hospitalized only because they have elected to have joint replacement surgery to relieve crippling chronic joint pain.

In this environment of wellness, people recovering from joint replacement surgery dress in street clothes (not hospital gowns); they attend classes together; share meals together; and encourage each other to reach their post-operative goals. Many patients also have personal coaches (a family member or close friend), to help them in these first stages of recovery. The camaraderie among patients is a source of motivation and the impact on healing is significant.

Patient education plays a very important role and every patient in the Joint Solutions Program has a comprehensive manual describing medication, exercise, and the activities and goals of each post-operative day. This is a very pro-active approach to care, with the shared goal of helping patients regain joint function and mobility as quickly as possible so they can return to normal daily activities. The sooner people begin moving following surgery, the better able they are to model the healing tissue and increase range of motion.

Many people who come to the Joint Solutions seminars discover, during physician follow-up, that their hip and knee pain can be helped with medication and exercise. Others benefit from minimally invasive joint arthroscopy to smooth rough surfaces inside the painful joint. For those people who can benefit from joint replacement, this program provides information to help in the decision-making process.

Margaret Vence is a physical therapist on staff at Cayuga Medical Center and is manager of the Joint Solutions Program. She holds a doctor of physical therapy degree from Simmons College.

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