John Schieck wanted to dance at his daughter’s wedding, and he wasn’t going to let the pandemic stop him. But his severely arthritic hip was another matter.
So, when the Long Island resident learned he could schedule a hip replacement when elective surgeries resumed at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), he didn’t hesitate. Before the pandemic, he had a knee replacement at HSS. In May of this year, he came to see me for a regular follow-up exam. Mr. Schieck’s knee was fine, but his hip pain and gotten much worse. He had trouble sleeping at night and found himself limping at work.
Mr. Schieck, who is 65, went ahead with hip replacement surgery at HSS in June, and two months later, he attended his daughter’s wedding. “My hip pain was gone. I danced with my daughter, my wife, my friends. I was a ‘dancing machine’,” he recalled.
For others suffering from arthritis pain who are reluctant to schedule surgery, HSS has instituted extensive precautions to ensure that patients, visitors and staff remain safe. The hospital has taken extraordinary measures that start with screening everyone at the door before they even walk into the hospital, including employees, patients and visitors.
Mr. Schieck, himself a high-level hospital administrator in Queens, said he was impressed by the precautions he saw at HSS to safeguard everyone’s health. “If you know about the quality of work they do at HSS, you know you’ll be safe. Somebody gave a lot of thought to safety at HSS, and it gave me a good comfort level,” he said.
Mr. Schieck went home the day after his hip replacement and was able to do his rehab remotely online, one-on-one, with a physical therapist from HSS. He said it worked out very well.
People who are considering joint replacement to relieve their pain may rest easier knowing that HSS is a specialty hospital dedicated exclusively to orthopedic conditions. Physicians at HSS only treat people with conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system, that is, their muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and other connective tissue. HSS does not have an onsite emergency room and does not have a service to treat patients with Covid-19.
Knowing about advances in joint replacement could help people who are deciding whether to have surgery:
• These days, patients spend less time in the hospital. Outpatient hip or knee replacement is an option for patients whose general health is good. The surgery is generally performed early in the morning, and the patient goes home at the end of the day. If someone isn’t ready to be discharged, they can go home the following day.
• Robotic-assisted hip and knee replacement, which allows for ultra-precise alignment and placement of the implant, could result in less pain after surgery. It could also lead to a joint replacement that lasts longer.
• Advances in pain management benefit patients. A technique known as multimodal pain control uses various medications that target multiple pain pathways. It has been shown to improve pain management after surgery and reduce the need for opioid medication.
• We now use surgical glue to close the incision, so it’s no longer necessary to see a health care provider to remove sutures or staples.
• After joint replacement, patients can have their rehab at home. Thanks to TeleHealth, Hospital for Special Surgery physical therapists can work with a patient remotely one-on-one. For those who prefer to work with a physical therapist in person, arrangements can be made for the therapist to come to the home.
• With Telehealth, patients can also choose to have follow-up visits with their orthopedic surgeon remotely via computer, tablet or even cell phone.
The pandemic has presented challenges, and it’s stressful for everyone. It shouldn’t be exacerbated by arthritis or other pain that makes people feel even worse during these trying times. We encourage people to take care of their health concerns now to relieve pain and improve their quality of life.