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4 Nov 2020

If you’re suffering from joint pain and considering a joint replacement surgery for long, you’re not alone. Chronic, debilitating pain that requires joint replacement affects nearly one in four adults in countries like the United States, though its prevalence among senior populations all over the world, including the Middle East and Oman, is growing. Unfortunately, many people wait years to move forward with surgery, enduring significant pain and negatively impacting their lives.

This delay has worsened in the current climate of stress and fear of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent US survey of 1,200 people comprising joint replacement patients and caregivers, conducted by Wakefield Research and commissioned by a leading medical device company Zimmer Biomet, 48% of people reported they postponed elective joint replacement surgery due to fears and concerns stemming from COVID-19.Informed by the results of this survey, Zimmer Biomet recently launched Don’t Let Pain Gain on You, an educational resource aimed at informing and empowering those living with joint pain to make informed decisions about joint replacement surgery in partnership with their healthcare professional.

Although joint replacement is typically considered an elective surgery, it is an important tool in restoring people’s mobility and helping to enhance their quality of life. If you are considering joint replacement surgery and feeling hesitant during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are five things to consider:

1. Quality of life

Relief from debilitating pain is the number one benefit of joint replacement surgery. “Unfortunately, I have many patients who are suffering greatly from joint pain but have canceled or delayed their planned joint replacement procedures due to concerns stemming from COVID-19,” says Dr Mark Klaassen, orthopedic surgeon. “While this concern is understandable, it becomes a quality-of-life issue. I do my best to encourage people to proceed as soon as they feel comfortable, so that they can achieve relief from chronic, debilitating joint pain and move forward with their life.”

Discussing all potential benefits and risks with your own doctor to determine the right time for you is important. Expectations and achievable level of pain-relief and mobility can vary depending on your specific pre-operative condition and activity level.

2. Talk to professionals about an outpatient procedure

Ask your surgeon about your potential to have an outpatient surgical procedure so that you may be able to be discharged on the same day of surgery and recover at home instead of spending additional time in the hospital – which may be particularly appealing during the pandemic. Additionally, you can ask your healthcare professional about technological innovations in joint replacement surgery such as robotics and digital health platforms that are available in some locations, for appropriate patients. One such option is mymobility with Apple Watch from Zimmer Biomet, a first-of-its-kind remote care management system that uses an iPhone  and Apple Watch to facilitate a new level of connection between patients and their surgical care teams. This is also intended to help minimise the need for unnecessary physical touchpoints.

3. Understand the safety protocols 

If you are concerned about your safety at this time, it is important to realise that there are mandated protocols and guidance in place in every country to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. According to Dr Klaassen, “Hospitals and surgery centres across the country are typically utilising extremely stringent policies and procedures to help keep people safe. If safety concerns are holding you back, I urge you to discuss further with your healthcare professional as I personally don’t see this as a reason to further delay a necessary joint replacement procedure.”

Becky D, a mother and grandmother from Warsaw, Ind, and a patient of Dr Klaassen’s, recently underwent two separate joint replacement procedures, in the middle of COVID-19 – the first, in March 2020, was a total knee replacement and the second, in June 2020, was a partial knee replacement.

“Two months after surgery, I am so relieved not to have that debilitating pain I had before surgery, and I am able to be more active again,” she said.

4. Consider your caregivers

For many people suffering from severe joint pain, family members and caregivers are often a critical part of the process, so don’t forget to consider the impact that continuing to delay your joint replacement surgery could have on them. Data shows that caregivers of people with joint pain can face a decrease in their quality of life and an increase in stress as they bear added responsibilities or household duties. In fact, according to Zimmer Biomet’s survey, 56% of caregivers wished their loved one would move forward with surgery more quickly even during the pandemic in order to relieve their physical pain and the negative impact on quality of life.

5. Delaying surgery can cause additional pain 

Zimmer Biomet’s survey also found that those who have postponed their elective joint replacement surgery due to COVID-19 related concerns report that their daily lives have been impacted, citing increases in pain (71%), mobility changes (58%), and worsening sleep (36%). Talk to your surgeon about what’s right for you and when is the right time to go in for surgery. Whether you’ve put off your joint replacement surgery or haven’t yet scheduled it, now may be the time to take action, so you can get back to enjoying your daily life.

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