As we emerge from lockdown, surgical operations are resuming across the NHS and private healthcare settings.
This is great news if you are in pain and have been waiting for orthopaedic surgery – waiting lists for orthopaedics are the longest of any specialty right now. However, many patients are understandably anxious and we are frequently asked whether it is safe to have surgery and what people need to do to stay safe.
British Orthopaedic Association guidance
This is accurate at the date of publishing.
The British Orthopaedic Association (BOA), which represents orthopaedic surgeons in the UK, has issued guidance for patients waiting for joint replacements and other types of orthopaedic surgery. It seeks to reassure people that, although they may be feeling anxious and frustrated and their pain levels may be increasing, they have not been forgotten and the BOA is working closely with the NHS and other healthcare bodies to restart services as quickly as it can.
It warns that progress may be patchy across different regions but states that for everyone the priority is to reduce the risk of becoming infected with Covid-19. In the months ahead, surgery will be prioritised according to clinical urgency, which will mean longer waits than normal for routine procedures.
What to expect if you’re scheduled for surgery
Your surgeon will contact you to ask if you still wish to go ahead with your surgery and to answer any questions you may have. It is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of catching Covid-19 while you are in hospital, although every care is taken to minimise the risk.
If you do contract the virus during surgery or immediately afterwards, your clinical outcome can be worse, which is why some people are choosing not to go ahead with surgery at the current time. It is important to understand the risks and benefits of having your surgery so we recommend talking to your orthopaedic surgeon. Consultations may take place online or by phone rather than face-to-face, again to minimise the risk of attending hospital and contracting Covid-19 infection.
If you do decide to go ahead, you will be asked to follow new guidelines before you come into hospital. In most cases, with current hospital protocols, you will need to self-isolate with members of your household in the 14 days up to the date of surgery. In addition to your routine pre-operative assessment you will have a Covid-19 swab 3 days prior to your planned surgery date.
It is important to keep as active as you can, particularly if you are suffering from joint pain, and to look after your physical and mental health as you prepare for surgery. Mental health charity, MIND has some helpful advice and there is information on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy homepage on exercises to help you manage bone, joint and muscle pain. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can also help to reduce your risk.
New ways of working have been introduced in hospitals to keep people safe – for both patients and staff. You will be required to comply with social distancing measures and asked to undergo a temperature test before coming into hospital, to infer you don’t have low grade active Covid-19 infection. Staff too will be regularly tested and will wear personal protective equipment. Increased cleaning measures are in place across all healthcare settings and visitors are not permitted for most hospital patients.
If you are having a planned procedure (referred to as elective surgery), you will be treated in a “green” pathway, which means that stringent measures are in place to keep it Covid-free. The Royal College of Surgeons has more information on its website about what to expect if you are undergoing surgery during the pandemic.
The length of time you spend in hospital will depend on the complexity of the operation you have had. For some procedures you will be able to go home the same day. In most joint replacement surgery a 2 night stay is allowed. When you go home you should ensure you follow the instructions on your discharge letter. Follow-up appointments where possible will normally be carried out via video link or phone, unless you need to be seen face-to-face or have developed any complications.
Safety is our Number One Priority for You
Carrothers Orthopaedics is currently open and scheduling clinic appointments again, as well as surgery, however the safety of patients and staff remains our number one priority at all times. We are happy to discuss fully the risks and benefits of any proposed orthopaedic surgery, in the context of the ongoing UK Covid-19 pandemic.