Has your Joint Replacement Surgery Been Postponed?
Use the time to build up your health mentally and keep pain under control.
As COVID-19 infections spread throughout the country, the federal government, along with many state and local leaders and hospitals are recommending –or outright mandating – that elective surgeries be postponed.
“It is simple: There are not enough hospital beds in the state of New York. There’s not enough personal protection equipment – masks primarily – and to utilize those for elective procedures is not socially responsible,” explains Mathias Bostrom, MD, chief of adult reconstruction and joint replacement at Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York City.
“The other part that we face is that most patients who need joint replacement will occupy a bed [and not go home the day of surgery], and they’re generally older and so require more health care resources than a patient who has a sports injury,” he notes.
Vermont, Florida, Alabama, Washington, Michigan, Texas and other states have also hit the pause button on non-essential procedures. That means, for people with osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis awaiting a joint replacement, surgery has been put on hold indefinitely.
“The operation to treat arthritis when all other measures have been exhausted is total joint replacement – and any way you slice it, total joint replacement is elective,” says Dr. Bostrom.
There are exceptions for emergencies, he adds – for example, if there is a fracture around a joint, an infection in an implant or a dislocation. Under those circumstances, the operation goes from “elective” to “essential.”
Dealing With Emotions
First, accept that it is a letdown. “It’s a very difficult decision to decide to get hip or knee replacements,” says Dr. Bostrom. Once patients have reached that point, he says, they’re ready to move forward; the postponement of their surgery feels like a setback. “And now [with social distancing], throw in that you’re isolated, and it is very frustrating.”
My initial advice is, be patient,” he says. “I know it is very difficult to deal with stress and anxiety associated with COVID-19 [in addition to] the pain, discomfort and physical limits of arthritis. But this will get better and once things settle down, you will have the opportunity to have your joint replaced and you can resume an active lifestyle. In the meantime, emotional self-care is important.
Are you looking for online support? Join our Live Yes! Arthritis Network’s online community or virtual connect group.
Check out the Arthritis Foundation’s YES tool – it’s Your Exercise Solution to find the best exercise for you based on which of your joints are affected. Or try to start a walking routine with Walk With Ease
Read more to reduce pain in individual joints and practice self-care for your joints.
The good news, says Dr. Bostrom, is that the unexpected delay will not result in any long-term damage. “It’s unlikely that you are going to make [your arthritis] worse by waiting one, two or even three months; your pain will be worse, but not the outcome of the operation.”
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