Getting a move on with the Express Track joint replacement option

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Sentara OrthoJoint® Center provides patients with a new way to get back to doing the activities they enjoy most.”
Sentara OrthoJoint® Center provides patients with a new way to get back to doing the activities they enjoy most.”

When joint pain starts to keep you from enjoying life, it’s time to consider your options.  Therapy, medications, exercise and some injectable treatment may provide some relief. If not, it may be time to consider joint replacement surgery.   

Most people are reluctant to commit to elective surgery due to loss time away from work or even the fear of surgery causing more pain.  Today’s joint replacement surgeries can be done faster, with less invasive techniques and it may surprise you that you will be back on your feet, literally, the same day of your surgery.   With the Express Track option of the Sentara OrthoJoint Center® locations at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center and the Orthopaedic Hospital at Sentara CarePlex, joint replacement patients can have surgery in the morning and be home recovering the next day.  

Roy Harrison, 59, is able to offer a striking comparison.

“My first hip replacement was in 2008, with my right hip and in July (2017), I got my left hip replaced. Not only was the procedure less invasive, I was able to leave the hospital the next day because of the Express Track program,” he said.

Harrison’s rheumatoid arthritis had been constantly painful, and joint replacement offered him a way to return to his trucking business with less pain and more mobility. He prides himself on being able to do what’s needed to keep them on the road.

“I couldn’t do my job before.  I was in constant pain from sitting too long while driving,” he said.

“Repairing and welding trailers involves a lot of strength and flexibility – you’re basically dropping down and climbing through a series of compartments. There’s no way I could do that with my hip in the shape it was,” Harrison said.

Last summer, Harrison was accompanied to his surgery by his wife and daughter, who spent the night with him at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center after his surgery. They were also involved in learning what they would need to do to help him at home, including his physical therapy. His daughter, Leaha Odom, said that she noticed a decrease in his pain level with this surgery, as well as a more positive attitude.

“I think there’s a huge advantage to this approach. Do your homework ahead of time, learn all you can, and pay attention to any recommendations for the recovery process.” Odom said. Part of the process was to watch Harrison in a physical therapy session to see the correct way to do exercises.

“We definitely had to say, ‘do your exercises!’ but he had the drive because he wanted to get back to everyday life. We just had to remind him,” she said.

Rita Wade, a registered nurse and OrthoJoint Patient Navigator said that there is more emphasis than ever on preparing patients for surgery.

“We make sure that people know what’s going to happen during their procedure and their recovery, including physical therapy the day of their surgery. It used to be recommended that people rest, but now we know that you’ve got to get that new joint moving, and it keeps scar tissue from forming – that’s important,” she said.

Patients who are relatively healthy can be part of the Express Track option where their surgery is scheduled as the first or second one of the day, so they can get in at least two physical therapy sessions in after surgery and before being discharged home.

“We want to alleviate fear, uncertainty and doubt and get people through the surgery to a better quality of life,” Wade said. “Patients who spend less time in the hospital and get moving quicker, do better.”

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Express Track patients go home the next day, which is remarkable. Here’s how the health care team makes it safe

-Joint Education: An extensive overview of what to expect before, during and after surgery is offered by the OrthoJoint Patient Navigator, in a learning session with the patient and their coach. A take-home guidebook is provided with all of the physical therapy exercises included.

-Prehab: Up to six weeks before surgery, patients can begin working on strengthening their muscles – both the ones near the joint, and the ones that will be needed during recovery, such as biceps in the arms for using a walker. It also includes practical tips for getting in and out of cars, showers and bathtubs.

Coaching: Patients designate a coach who attends education sessions, helps prepare for recovery at home and encourages proper physical therapy exercises as prescribed for the patient. The coach can be a family member, friend or neighbor – whoever is committed to helping the patient be successful.

-Home Care Visit: Two weeks prior to surgery, a home team member visits to complete a home safety evaluation which helps identify issues that might interfere with recovery, such as insufficient lighting, trip hazards or other concerns.

“Your success depends on your active participation with your health care team at the Sentara OrthoJoint Center®. Our patients tell us that they feel more ready, like they are ahead of the game by knowing everything they need to do to have a great recovery from their joint surgery,” said Sandy D’Arcy, team coordinator of inpatient rehabilitation.

“We’re here to keep you safe and make you successful,” said Wade.


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Getting a move on with the Express Track joint replacement option