Knee and hip replacement surgery can result in a lot of pain and a long recovery. But surgical techniques have improved significantly over the last 20 years and patients can recover faster from this major surgery. An Accelerated Recovery Program for joint replacement helps patients heal faster and reduces pain according to doctors at WVU's School of Medicine.
Cindy Parrish is an example of how the new techniques can work. She was walking on her new knee, less than 24 hours after surgery. Just the day before, Cindy was in the operating room having total joint replacement surgery. She took part in an accelerated recovery program that reduced her pain and got her on her feet faster. She'll leave the hospital within two days of her operation. "I mean 24 to 36 hours, I'm amazed at the thought of even getting out of the hospital that quickly after a joint replacement," said Parrish.
The accelerated recovery program starts before surgery, with patients doing exercises to strengthen their lower body several weeks before their operation. It also involves a different approach to pain medications and anesthesia. "Limiting the use of narcotics. While they can
control your pain, they can also make you overly drowsy, groggy, have respiratory depression and multiple other side-effects that can prolong your hospital stay and your recovery process," said Dr. Matthew Dietz, WVU Center for Joint Replacement. "It's using medications that can have benefits both at the local surgical site and also centrally. So we use the spinal anesthetic, IV Tylenol."
Early mobilization is key to a faster recovery, with patients standing and walking on their new joint the same day as surgery. "We also do early mobilization in terms of getting the patient up on the same post-operative day, and then twice a day thereafter," said Dr. Dietz.
Total joint replacement surgery used to involve a hospital stay of up to one week. "With the accelerated recovery program, a hip replacement patient may stay for one or two days, and a knee replacement patient two or three," said Dr. Rolly Sullivan from WVU's School of Medicine.