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Preventing Falls at Home After Orthopedic Surgery

Thanks to advances in modern surgical techniques, many injuries today can be treated on an outpatient basis. Someone who undergoes a minor knee repair surgery, for example, may be sent home a few hours following the procedure.

While recovery at home is often far more comfortable than recovering in a hospital, it holds far more dangers for a patient – with the most dangerous area of the home being the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room. A patient’s home often lacks the benefit of professional medical supervision, with patients having to care for themselves and navigate around the house using crutches or a walker. This means dodging furniture, household items, kid’s toys, and possibly even rambunctious pets.

In contrast, a hospital room typically contains minimal furniture to permit easy access for medical professionals and reduce the chance of tripping over things. Someone is available with the push of a button to bring a bedpan or assist a patient to the bathroom. Meals are delivered and served in bed so the chances of suffering a fall are minimal.

Why Post-Op Falls are Dangerous

Even a relatively minor fall can greatly complicate matters for someone recovering from surgery. The repaired body part faces an increased risk of re-injury, tearing out of the stitches or other possible maladies. A person who falls may twist their bodies in an attempt to protect the treated area, potentially causing a secondary injury elsewhere.

Falling and being unable to get up is a real concern. No one wants to picture a loved one, home alone after surgery, falling to the floor, unable to get up or reach a phone to call for help. It is a horrific thought, but it does happen.

In addition, special care should be taken for seniors while recovering from surgery, as many will need someone to stay with them during recovery, or at least receive daily in-home visits from a nurse or therapist. Older adults are far more susceptible to falls and are more likely to suffer injuries from a fall.

How to Avoid Hazards in the Home

If you are anticipating recovering from surgery at home, there are things you can do to prepare to minimize the likelihood of a fall after your procedure. This preparation includes:

  • Clear areas that you will need to navigate by removing things like floor runners, loose wires or cords, and tables or household items in walkways.
  • Consider boarding pets for a few days to avoid the risk of tripping over them.
  • Set up a small cooler with snacks or refreshments for the day next to the bed and relocate phones so they are close by.
  • Ensure any rugs have nonslip backing on them or, even better, remove them.
  • Install handrails in the bathroom, especially if the patient is elderly or recovery is expected to take weeks or months.
  • To avoid the risks that come with having to climb stairs, relocate your bed to the first floor (if in a multilevel home) with access to a nearby bathroom.
  • Ensure house slippers have no-skid soles.
  • Arrange for regular visits by family or friends. Try to make your trips to the bathroom while someone is with you in the home and available to assist if needed. Nearly half of all falls recorded after surgery occur in the bathroom. Condensation or splashed water exponentially enhances the chances of a slip and fall in the bathroom, so be careful. 
  • Be aware of the possibility some medicines can cause dizziness, which can increase the likelihood of a fall, no matter how otherwise able you feel you are.

The kitchen is the second most dangerous room in the house because water figures prominently here as well, with spills and splashes from the sink or dishwasher creating hazards that can cause a slip and fall. Plus, the kitchen is home to many sharp, pointy objects designed to rend flesh from bone.

If you’re planning an at-home recovery, or even just thinking about adding new exercise to your routine at home, consult a medical professional first to learn how to avoid the particular hazard of falls. Call the team of professionals at the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence at (719) 623-1050 or request a consultation using the convenient online form to find out for yourself why the COE team is the best of the best. 

How to Deal with an Orthopedic Emergency While at Work

Just because you sit at a desk all day doesn’t mean you can’t experience an orthopedic emergency on the job. Hazards are everywhere! Slipping over spilled coffee; straining your back while lifting a box of printer paper; suddenly experiencing frozen shoulder. So just because you aren’t a lumberjack or longshoreman doesn’t mean that you are immune from experiencing an orthopedic while at work. Here’s how you can deal with it should it happen to you.

Triage Yourself

The first thing to do is assess the severity of your condition. Is it an orthopedic emergency? In other words, might you need to go to urgent care or the emergency room, or can it wait to for an appointment with your orthopedist? Here are a few examples of what may be considered an orthopedic emergency.

·      Following an orthopedic procedure such as a hip replacement knee surgery, you are experiencing shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing – all of which may indicate a blood clot in the lungs.

·      Following surgery on a lower extremity, pain and swelling in the calf. This could indicate thrombosis that might become a deadly embolus in the lung.

·      A post-operative wound that starts to drain spontaneously.

·      Following joint replacement surgery, a painfully swollen joint that accompanied by fever and/or chills, which could indicate an infection.

·      If you are in a solid cast, pain, swelling and numbness in the fingers or toes. This is known as cast compression syndrome.

·      Following lumbar spine surgery or an epidural spinal injection, severe back pain along with weakness in the legs and difficulty empting your bladder. This could indicate internal bleeding around the spinal cord.

·      Following orthopedic surgery, an accidental fall or twist of a post-operative limb followed by a noticeable increase in pain. This could indicate several things, to include a change in the fixation of a fracture, a new fracture, or – if you’ve recently had a total hip replacement – a dislocation of the hip joint.

·      Groin or thigh pain followed by an inability to walk. This could indicate an osteoporotic fracture of the hip.

Emergencies that are not post-operative

Other orthopedic emergencies that could happen at work include a broken or fractured arm or leg, a dislocated shoulder, or a sprain or strain. If you are able to move, seek medical attention right away. If you can’t move, have emergency medical attention come to you. Many offices have emergency medical personnel on standby; if you don’t be sure to clear a path so responders can come. Bring your purse and cell phone with or have a colleague accompany you as you may be laid up for a while.

If your orthopedic emergency happens on the job and is work-related, be sure to capture all the data – place, witnesses, photographs – in case you need to file a workman’s compensation claim.

If you experience any sort of head trauma such as a concussion, see a medical professional immediately.

In the event of an orthopedic emergency, don’t hesitate to visit – or have someone transport you – to an orthopedic urgent care facility. There, you can receive immediate care, as opposed to a hospital emergency room where it may take time to see an orthopedic specialist.

Colorado Center of Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs provides its patients with optimal comprehensive orthopedic care and primary care (non-operative) sports medicine on an urgent care basis. Whether you have an orthopedic emergency at work, home or in the field, our specialists are readily available to provide you with world-class care and service. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons will diagnose the condition and explain your treatment options. Call us at (719) 623-1050 today for an appointment.

FAQs for Your Orthopedic Surgeon Before Hip Surgery

If you need hip surgery, it’s important to have as much information about the procedure, recovery and what kind of outcome you may expect. In addition to researching a practice and the surgeon’s reputation, these are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) for your orthopedic surgeon before having hip surgery. 

What exactly is the hip procedure?

Although most hip surgeries involve joint replacement, or arthroplasty, there are other hip procedures performed for various conditions. Here are the most common:

·       Total hip replacement – usually performed to treat osteoarthritis of the hip that has progressed to the point of severe and constant pain that interferes with movement. The damaged part of the joint is cut away or removed, including the end of the femur (the ball of the joint) and cartilage and soft tissues from the inside of the joint. They are replaced with a smooth ball that fits into a prosthetic socket usually made of ceramic or steel.

·       Hip resurfacing –  similar to total hip replacement, prosthetic materials are implanted in the body to replace the hip joint. With hip resurfacing, the head of the femur is fitted with a smooth cap instead of removing the bone area and replacing it with a ball. The socket implanted in the hip fits the resurfaced femur for smooth and pain-free movement.

·       Partial hip replacement – if the end of the femur suffers a bad fracture, a partial hip replacement may be necessary to restore movement. In that case, the femur head is removed and replaced with a ball but the rest of the hip joint is left intact.

·       Hip arthroplasty – using small instruments fitted with a light and camera, the surgeon can remove damaged cartilage from the labrum, or the rim of the hip socket, and any small growths from the femur. This minimally-invasive procedure can be both diagnostic and therapeutic.

Is hip surgery necessary?

Have you tried more conservative methods of treatment for your condition? What are the options? Why does your doctor feel that hip surgery is the best course of action for your care? Some non-surgical treatments for hip conditions like osteoarthritis include physical therapy, assistive devices, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids, and viscosupplementation. 

What is the timeline for recovery?

Recovery can take time and effort after hip surgery. Does the procedure require a hospital stay, and if so, how many days? When will you be able to get around without help? When can you expect to drive, and return to work? Is physical therapy part of recovery? How many times per week? 

If you are in a great deal of pain or feeling emotional about your treatment options, it may be helpful to bring someone with you to your appointment who can help ask questions and remember the details of what is said. If you don’t have that option, bring a notebook where you write your questions before the visit and take notes.

If you have an orthopedic hip condition or injury, the board-certified orthopedic surgeons at the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence in Colorado Springs can help. Call (719) 623-1050 for an appointment today.

Non-Surgical Options Before Considering Joint Replacement

Joint replacement, or arthroplasty, has helped millions of people by restoring pain-free movement and range of motion to severely damaged and painful joints. Most of the time, people undergoing joint replacement surgery have osteoarthritis, caused by general wear and tear from years of use. In some cases, a joint replacement may be necessary due to the effects of an injury or degenerative condition. Joint replacement is major surgery that carries the risk of complications and requires significant time for recovery.

Effective alternative treatments may postpone or eliminate the need for surgery. Osteoarthritis pain is not always constant and can gradually worsen over time. If you are younger or have a condition that could complicate surgery, your best course may be to delay surgery as long as possible. Prosthetic joints may not last a lifetime. You could require revision or replacement of the implant. Before you have a joint replaced, these are some non-surgical treatment options to consider. 

·       Physical therapy – strengthening the muscles around your joint and gently increasing flexibility are among the many benefits of physical therapy. A physical therapist can also help you get used to moving in ways that do not stress your arthritic joints, while allowing you to maintain the activities you participate in for work or play.

·       Weight loss – most joint replacement surgery is for hips or knees. These joints have the job of holding you upright when you stand, walk, or run. Even a little extra weight can put a great deal more pressure on these joints. Losing weight is a great long-term solution for reducing joint pain and slowing or preventing further damage.

·       NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) – available over the counter, NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen are reliably effective in reducing the swelling and pain of arthritis. These medications are considered to be safe, though there are some possible complications from higher doses or long-term use. Check with your doctor before taking them regularly. Some NSAIDs may interact with other medications.

·       Steroids – though not a cure, corticosteroids are extremely effective in treating pain and inflammation in a damaged joint. Because of serious potential side effects and decreasing effectiveness after the first treatment, corticosteroids are only considered a temporary solution. However, the relief they provide can last months or even years.

·       Braces or splints – depending on which joint is damaged, the use of an appropriate assistive device can allow you to carry on with your regular activities with little pain. Holding the joint immobile in combination with other treatments can give it a chance to heal.

·       Supplements – medical evidence is lacking for definitive benefits of supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin, but there are numerous anecdotal success stories. Doctors generally agree that there is no harm in trying this kind of supplement but be sure to let your doctor know if you are taking them.

·        Stretch – before playing sports or participating in another physical activity, take care to stretch and warm up. Preventing an acute injury to the joints can go a long way towards preventing arthritis in your future. 

The orthopedic surgeons at Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence diagnose and treat all kinds of joint conditions, and will look to non-invasive methods first before resorting to surgery – even in the case for a partial or full joint replacement. For expert and compassionate care in the Colorado Springs area, call (719) 623-1050 for an appointment today.