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Reducing risk of hospital return

Posted August 20, 2014 in Advice Column, Windsor Heights

Since 1991, there has been a substantial increase in the number of senior adults receiving total knee replacements. In the United States alone, approximately 600,000 are performed annually. The increase in this elective surgery can be attributed to its success rates and the overall increase in quality of life senior patients can enjoy after the procedure. Total knee replacement can reduce or alleviate pain and increase mobility, allowing seniors to participate in activities from which they may have been precluded due to knee problems.

However, while the rates of this surgery have increased, the length of time the senior remains in the hospital after total knee replacement has decreased by half. Unfortunately, because complications can arise during recovery, there is substantial risk that older adults who have undergone total knee replacement will end up back in the hospital. The good news is that there are actions these individuals can take to reduce this risk.

Older individuals who have undergone total knee replacement can potentially experience complications deriving from medical conditions or other factors such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and infection. The best defense against these complications is for the senior to be well informed about the procedure, recovery and self care during recovery. Seniors should ask their doctors to explain any part of the procedure or recovery of which they are unsure. They should ensure that their doctors are also fully aware of any medical conditions that could cause potential complications.

Older adults who elect to have total knee replacement should also be vigilant about following their physician’s recommendations for rehabilitation and recovery. While it may seem contrary to recovery, movement is a strong deterrent to DVT. Seniors can help their own recovery by performing activities and exercises exactly as prescribed.

To reduce the risk of other complications, such as infections, older adults who have undergone total knee replacement should follow the recommended schedule of follow-up visits with their primary care physicians. Their physicians can monitor their recovery and identify any signs of complications that may need to be addressed.

During the recovery period, the senior individual may need help with daily activities. When family and friends are not available, the senior may benefit from in-home care. In-home caregivers can help the senior with bathing and grooming, can remind the senior to take his or her medications and can take the senior to follow-up doctor’s and rehabilitation appointments to help the senior recover successfully.

References: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (Jan. 2009). Deep vein thrombosis. Cram, P. (Feb. 19, 2013). Total knee arthroplasty among Medicare beneficiaries.  Jordan, C.J., Goldstein, R.Y., Michels, R.F., Hutzler, L., Slover, J.D. and Bosco.

Information provided by Clint Rogers, Comfort Keepers, 1300 Metro East Drive, Suite 128, Pleasant Hill, 515-243-0011.

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