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Covid-19 and Hip and Knee Replacement Surgery: Where Do We Go from Here?

Most of the U.S. stopped doing elective surgery in early spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not long after, elective hip and knee replacement surgery started back in mid- to late-May and has progressed since then.

This most recent surge, in the fall of 2020, has presented new challenges to patients suffering with painful joints and to surgeons performing these procedures. What motivates patients to seek joint replacement surgery is a combination of increasing pain and decreasing function. These lead to a significant impact on quality of life. Patients feel their "world is shrinking". Despite ongoing concerns about Covid-19, patients often elect to proceed with scheduled surgery.

Clinicians have made adjustments to make in person visits safer and have embraced the use of telehealth. Hospitals have made many adjustments such as universal mask requirements, limited visitation, COVID testing for all elective surgery among others. Now that Washington state hospitals have limited inpatient surgery, we have pivoted to doing primary hip and knee replacements as outpatients at both our ambulatory surgery center and at Valley Medical Center (VMC).

Our new joint venture with VMC, a 6-room ambulatory surgery center made for outpatient joint and spine surgery, will be available in early 2021. Surgeons, anesthesiologists and recovery room nurses have worked together to make this quick transition work both effectively and safely. With improved pre-op patient education, increased participation of patient caregivers, and a willingness to embrace change, outpatient surgery has become an increasingly valuable option for patients with arthritis of the hip and knee.