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Same-day joint surgery supports patient recovery and reduces surgical waitlist

Photo of Lorraine Barrington, retired Day Surgery nurse

By Sabina Pollayparambil

When retired Day Surgery nurse Lorraine Barrington first started working at Cape Breton Regional Hospital in 1995, she likely didn’t imagine that joint replacements would become a day-procedure or that she would be among the first to receive an outpatient joint replacement surgery in Cape Breton.

Just a year after retiring Barrington found herself in the position of needing hip replacement and participated in an eight-week program offered by her local Hip-and-Knee clinic.

Similar clinics, also known as Orthopedic Assessment Clinics, have been set up or expanded across Nova Scotia since 2018 to help better prepare patients for their joint replacement surgery and recovery.

They are part of an overall wellness model that aims to help patients better manage their condition to improve their quality of life, mobility, pain management and strength. This can help patients prepare for surgery or even help some patients delay or prevent the need for future surgery altogether.

Key features of the model include delivering exercise and education classes before surgery and getting patients up and moving about soon after surgery to aide their recovery.

Barrington credits the model for helping make her a candidate for same-day joint replacement surgery.

“I had total hip surgery and was done at 10:30 a.m. and by 4:30 p.m. that afternoon I was back in my home,” she said.

June marks the one-year anniversary of her same-day hip surgery and Barrington is recovering well and speaks highly of her surgical experience.

“Everyone – from the nursing staff, my orthopedic surgeon, and physiotherapists – made me feel confident and comfortable in preparing me for surgery and my recovery,” said Barrington. “I could not have asked for a better experience and would recommend same-day joint surgery for those who are able to receive it.”

Barrington’s experience is not unique.

When it comes to highly demanded joint replacement surgeries Nova Scotia has been working to reduce the time patients stay in hospital after surgery and has even shifted away from having patients remain in hospital after surgery at all.

In fact, in 2022-2023, almost 1,200 patients received a total hip or knee joint replacement surgery and returned home the same day. This compares to just 85 patients in 2019 -2020, pre COVID-19.

Not only do some patients prefer this approach, but it also allows for greater flexibility in how these surgeries are scheduled and helps free up beds, allowing more patients to have the surgery they need sooner.

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid hospital stays altogether for patients who are otherwise healthy and have the right supports to have their surgery and recover in the comfort of their own home.