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Joint Replacement Surgery During the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Arthritis Patients Should Know

CreakyJoints discusses what arthritis patients can expect when having joint replacement surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic according to experts including Steven B. Haas, MD, chief of the knee service at HSS.

When asked if joint replacement surgery can be done safely during the pandemic, Dr. Haas noted, “I think the answer is yes — as long as the right protocols are in place.” It all starts with a conversation with your doctor about factors such as the severity of your joint damage as well as your risk for severe COVID-19 infection. “For the right patient with the right level of disease, and with the right protections, it can be done safely,” he added.

When the time does come for surgery, there are a number of protocols in place at medical facilities around the country to protect against COVID-19. According to Dr. Hass, HSS has installed HEPA air filters in operating rooms, which may help reduce airborne transmission of the coronavirus.

The approach to post-surgery recovery and physical therapy has also changed since the pandemic. Some practices are also finding success with teletherapy. HSS has a telemedicine program called HSS At Home. “With this home physical therapy program you have the therapist on the [screen] doing personalized physical therapy and monitoring exercise with the patients. The results have been outstanding. Our post-op patients during COVID are doing just as well as those before COVID,” said Dr. Haas. “We had only small amounts of telemedicine before COVID. But I’ve found through telemedicine you can make a good connection with people, even if you can’t do physical exams.” He continued, “The patient often has family members with them, they’re comfortable at home, I get to see their environment, and I’m not distracted by having to enter data on my computer.”

When considering joint replacement surgery, Dr. Haas provided guidance on items to discuss with your physician, including questions about the facility where the surgery will be performed. “If it’s at a hospital, does it have safety protocols set up to do COVID-19 testing and monitoring?” advised Dr. Haas. However, not all decisions are straightforward and there are gray areas. “If you’re an older adult with comorbidities, but you can barely walk around the house and you’re deteriorating and possibly getting depressed as a result, we have to have those individual conversations to see if surgery is the right thing,” cited Dr. Haas. “Patients just need to have the talk with their provider. And if they and their doctor feel like having surgery now is best, we’ve shown it can be done safely.”

Read the full article at Creakyjoints.org.