Patient Spotlight: Two Very Different Total Joint Replacement Surgeries
By Vernon Rerich
When I learned I had to get both knees replaced, it was a daunting thought. How could I take enough time off of work to get both surgeries and fully recover? As someone who works a physically-demanding job, it seemed even more far-fetched.
However, these were the circumstances I found myself in last year when my job gave me six months off to get my procedures done. It was already going to be a tight squeeze, but when the ice storm hit Texas, I lost two weeks. I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to get it done.
The first knee surgery wasn’t done at APC. It was at a different clinic group and it was an inpatient procedure, so I stayed for two nights at the hospital after surgery. It took just over three months to go through physical therapy and recover.
When my surgeon switched clinics, I was thrilled. The first clinic had been very frustrating from a patient perspective. It was almost impossible to get in contact with anyone there, even if it was for an important or time-sensitive reason. I liked my surgeon, Dr. Albrecht a lot, so I was glad to follow him over to Advanced Orthopedics at APC.
The second knee surgery was a completely different experience. It was an outpatient procedure and I was literally up and walking that same day. I didn’t have to stay overnight at the hospital and I got to go straight home. It was a much more comfortable experience and it made the final cost of the surgery much lower than the first.
When I got home that night, my wife asked me, “Did they really do anything to your knee?” She couldn’t believe how different the experience was from the first time around. The surgery had been scheduled for 1:30 PM and I was home that evening by 10:15 PM.
Where the recovery for my first knee surgery had taken over three months, the second took just over six weeks. I was able to get both surgeries done in that six-month window! I went back to work in Mid-August and each week, I feel stronger and able to use a fuller range of motion.
The Difference Between Inpatient and Outpatient Total Joint Replacement Surgeries
I’d heard about outpatient knee replacement surgeries before I had mine, but it seemed like a very distant possibility. However, as I soon learned, it’s a fast-growing technique in the world of orthopedics. Dr. Albrecht told me that the only difference between inpatient and outpatient total joint replacement surgeries is the anesthesia and the pain management approach. Everything else is exactly the same!
The reason that I was able to go home the same day after the second knee replacement surgery was because of the nerve blocks and pain medication that the doctors had given me during the procedure. It lasted for 24 hours, where I was largely without pain. After that initial window, I took a small number of painkillers for just a few days.
Dr. Albrecht explained that APC decided to incorporate orthopedics into a pain-management-based approach. This means that there are highly trained pain specialists and anaesthesiologists assisting with procedures, who are able to use their unique expertise to help patients go home that very same day.
It minimizes the stress of staying overnight in the hospital and allows you to rest better in your own home. Plus, as I mentioned before, it’s much cheaper. It’s sad that many people have to factor the cost of critical medical procedures into their decision-making process, but it’s the reality for many Americans. Staying in a hospital is incredibly expensive, racking up costs and co-pays. When you get to leave the same day, it cuts costs drastically.
There are many benefits to outpatient procedures, including a more rapid recovery process. For my second knee replacement, I got up and walked on my own just a few hours after surgery. My doctors encouraged me to get back on my feet as soon as I felt able to. When you’re able to get up and walk on your own soon after major surgery, it jumpstarts the recovery and healing process. It’s also empowering. You believe in your ability to get up and get moving again.
The Outpatient Experience at a Multidisciplinary Pain Clinic
As I mentioned before, my experience at Advanced Orthopedics at APC has been easier and less stressful than at my previous clinic. At my previous clinic, it was hard to get in contact with my doctors and I had to leave messages with long wait times for a response. As someone who was on a strict timeline to get back to work, this was frustrating, to say the least. It was also tough to get medications refilled. I would call for a refill and sometimes it would take so long to hear back that I was almost out of the prescription. It was an anxiety-inducing experience, especially when I was dealing with severe post-surgery pain.
At APC, things have been very different! No matter when I call, I always speak to someone, whether it’s a receptionist who takes down my message or my doctor. If I do leave a message with a receptionist, the wait time for a response is never long. When I need to refill a prescription, it’s always easy. The pharmacy is in the same location as the clinic and they have access to all my information and records. They can fill a prescription right away and I don’t have to wait or feel nervous that I’ll run out of important medication.
Luckily, I had the same surgeon at both clinics. Dr. Albrecht was great at making me feel comfortable and knowledgeable about both of the procedures. He knew that I needed to get both of my knee surgeries done within those six months and he was always helpful and on top of getting it done in time. I often recommend Dr. Albrecht and APC to friends or co-workers who need to get a knee replacement or other orthopedic procedures. I know they’ll be in good hands.
Knee Replacement Surgery and Getting Back to Work
As a truck driver, I have a very physically demanding job. Besides the loading and unloading of heavy cargo, driving for long periods takes a toll on your body. I was a little worried about going back to work after these two major surgeries. I had been through physical therapy of course, but I was concerned that I would put a strain on my healing muscles and set myself back in the recovery process.
I have been making sure to take it slowly and ease myself into the tougher aspects of my job. Even so, I was shocked at how much easier it was to get back into the swing of work post-surgery. Before my knee replacements, I was in constant pain at work. It was just bone on bone, scraping and causing nerve pain. It did a number on my mood. Everyone at work could see that I was in pain and that I was suffering throughout the day.
These days, work is much easier! I feel less pain and my mood has improved. It’s easier to have fun with my co-workers and make the most of the workday. I am already able to lift heavy items and get around easily when I am unpacking a truck. I still have small pains here and there, but it’s 100% more manageable. I would recommend an outpatient total joint replacement surgery to anyone looking at needing a knee replacement who qualifies, to cut down on recovery time and stress.