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Even Patients Who Live Alone Can Be Discharged Home After Joint Replacement Surgery

By William P. Barrett, MD on

In a study presented at the 2017 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, surgeons from the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presented the results of a study examining 769 patients who underwent primary total hip or knee replacement surgery. Of this group, 138 patients lived alone. The surgeons found that patients who lived alone tended to stay an extra night in the hospital and 37% of this patient group had limited support without weekly visits from friends or family. Nevertheless, almost 80% of those who lived alone still had a friend or relative living within 15 miles who could provide help if needed.

The findings concluded there was no increase in complications or unplanned readmissions in the patients who lived alone compared to those living with other people. There was also no difference in functional outcome following joint replacement surgery. Patient satisfaction scores were equivalent in both patients who lived alone and those who lived with someone else. However, those who lived alone faced significantly higher medical fees: the cost savings for patients who went home rather than to a rehab center was $10,776 per patient.

“We found that patients living alone were able to safely recover without any increase in the rate of complications. Even more strikingly, patients were generally happy and content being in the comfort of their own home during recovery,” said William J. Hozack, MD, lead author and orthopedic surgeon at The Rothman Institute.

The authors concluded that based on the cost savings, the emotional benefit for patients recovering in a familiar surrounding, and the lack of difference in pain or complications, discharge home is appropriate for the vast majority of patients undergoing joint replacement surgery, including the nearly 20% of patients living on their own.

Dr. Barrett is an Eastside orthopedic surgeon who performs over 500 joint replacement surgeries annually. For more information about total hip and knee replacements, contact Proliance Orthopedic Associates at 425.656.5060.

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