As an orthopedic surgeon specializing in total joint replacements, my goal is to help my patients get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Thankfully, continuous improvements in surgical technology and techniques have allowed me to do just that.
For years, patients undergoing minor orthopedic procedures could do so in an outpatient surgery center, leaving just an hour or two after surgery. Patients undergoing total joint replacements, however, had a much different experience – often staying in the hospital for two to four days following surgery.
But all of that has changed. Today, joint replacement patients can go from the operating room to the living room in one day – or less.
In recent years some hospitals have begun to use robot-assisted technology for knee and hip replacement, allowing surgeons to replace joints with pinpoint precision.
Clinical studies have shown the robotic surgery system improves outcomes by allowing the surgeon to customize the placement and alignment of the implant components to the patients’ unique anatomy, providing more natural movement of the joint and increasing its longevity.
For instance, at Beaufort Memorial, we use the Mako SmartRobotics Arm-Assisted Surgery System. This sophisticated technology allows me to replace a joint with much better precision, impacting far fewer internal structures, resulting in less post-operative pain and a faster return to normal activities.
In addition, many orthopedic surgeons are also using “muscle-sparing” techniques, like the Direct Anterior Approach, to improve hip replacement outcomes. With this technique, we are able to avoid cutting and then reattaching the key muscle group that enables patients to walk and bend.
These new approaches to surgery often allow us to replace a patient’s joints in the morning and discharge them the same day, getting them up and on their feet and on their way home where they can fully recover in comfort.
Moving from an inpatient to an outpatient surgery isn’t for everyone, but patients who are healthy and who have family and other support measures in place have the same outcomes as patients who stay in the hospital.
Thorough pre-surgical evaluation can be helpful in identifying patients who can be released the same day. For example, at BMH, our orthopedic team has created the Preoperative Assessment Clinic to thoroughly screen for any issue that may complicate a patient’s surgery or recovery.
By identifying and resolving issues in advance, we’re able to promote greater patient safety and ensure the best possible outcomes through a detailed workup and communication with the team.
This extra level of screening and intervention has increased my comfort level and confidence in the patients’ ability to be discharged more quickly.
Today, a majority of our joint replacement patients have an overnight stay, but up to 30% are discharged the very same day. And while joint replacement surgery has been moving in this direction for several years, we now have the tools we need and the support services in place to make it a reality – and that’s better for everyone.
Vandit Sardana, M.D., FRCS, is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with Beaufort Memorial Orthopaedic Specialists in Okatie and Port Royal.